MARION COUNTY, Ind. — The Marion County Coroner’s Office is getting more money after seeing an increase in death investigations throughout the pandemic.
They will now get additional funds from the American Rescue Plan and are looking to add new staff and new resources.
The Deputy Chief Coroner says they had about 300 more deaths to investigate this past year, which increased the strain on their office.
“It’s been tough. My staff is small but mighty,” said Deputy Chief Coroner Alfarena McGinty.
“We’re dealing with, you know, two epidemics. The drug overdose deaths and the homicides, then the pandemic.”
McGinty says in 2021 they had more than 2,800 total death investigations — about 300 more than the 2,500 in 2020.
They have been communicating their needs with the city, and now they will get the additional funds.
The coroner’s office believes the increase was due in part to a higher number of homicides, people dying from COVID, and an increase in drug-related overdoses.
“We’ve had some significant numbers in death investigations overall. There have been very complex death investigations that we have dealt with. And so, it’s been a challenge. We have had to… we need to add more staff based on these numbers. And we are working with the controller’s office to do that. To make sure that we have the funding that we need for the staff support to continue to conduct all of these investigations for operations.”
When it comes to homicides, the coroner’s office says the number of investigations they do is always more than just what IMPD is investigating, because they cover the entire county and a few surrounding areas. They also have to investigate if a person was attacked in another area but came to Marion County for treatment and later died.
They are looking to add more staff to cover the increased work, new space and new equipment.
They are hoping that by bringing on social workers they will be able to give families more resources to address the root causes of homicides, drug overdoses and other sudden deaths to help bring down those numbers.
“We’re the first communication in contact with these families. And we have ongoing contact with them by providing the cause and the manner of those deaths. And so, when we can have or add social resources for those families, we think that it may be able to help with eliminating other trauma and other issues within the family.”
They plan to start early this month to get some social workers trained in the death investigation process. The next step is to start getting them involved with families to provide mental health and other resources.
They also plan to work with grassroots organizations that help address violence to bring down homicide numbers. And they would like to work with the DEA on the increase they’ve seen with drug overdoses.