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Indiana county planning morgue with COVID-19 relief money

The new facility could lead to autopsies being conducted in South Bend again.

A northern Indiana county is looking to spend some of its federal COVID-19 relief money to open a county morgue.

The St. Joseph County coroner’s office is now using a cooler at a local cemetery to store six or seven bodies at a time since it doesn’t have its own facility, the South Bend Tribune reported.

The County Council voted this past week to allocate $380,000 in American Rescue Plan funding for the coroner to buy and renovate space for a morgue.

“The real reason I would like to have a morgue here is to have a warm place for families to ID their loved ones,” Coroner Dr. Patricia Jordan said. “We’re trying to make the most unpleasant day in a person’s life somewhat palatable.”

The coroner’s office handles nearly 500 death cases a year, which include not only homicides, suicides, fatal crashes and drug overdoses, but also unattended deaths by natural causes or those that occur under unusual circumstances.

Jordan said the new facility could lead to autopsies being conducted in South Bend again, by luring back forensic pathologists who left in part because the county did not have adequate facilities. The office now sends bodies to Fort Wayne or Kalamazoo, Michigan, for autopsies.

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