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Marin Needs to Fund a County Morgue, Civil Grand Jury Says

A new report on Marin's alternatives for a county morgue was released this week.

The Marin County Civil Grand Jury is urging county officials to set aside money in their budget that would fund a new morgue facility, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report, titled “Marin County Morgue: Where Do We Go From Here?” recommends that the county set aside funds to transform an existing building into a morgue. Until then, all autopsies should be performed in the Napa County.

All autopsies are currently performed in local funeral homes or at Napa County morgue since Marin doesn’t have the facilities. The Civil Grand Jury first reported on this in 2001, and again in 2009.

“It has been 12 years since the first recommendation was made and Marin County still has no morgue facility,” the report said.

Retrofit an Existing Building to Serve as the Morgue

Over the past five years, Marin County has reduced it’s $50 million projected deficit by $30 million, and cut its workforce by 200 positions, or 10 percent. Building a new morgue, which the report says could cost between $2 million and $5.6 million, would be too costly.

Instead, the report urges the county to retrofit an existing building, such as the 315,000-square-foot Commons Building at 1600 Los Gamos Road in San Rafael, to serve as this purpose.

The county set aside $1.75 million to pay for a forensic facility and morgue after the Civil Grand Jury reported on the issue in 2001. Since then, the county used the funds to purchase the Commons Building, where the Sheriff’s office, emergency operations center and other departments, but no morgue, will be housed. 

Why Not Funeral Homes?

The Marin County Sheriff’s Department is currently evaluating the possibility of equipping a local funeral home with the tools needed to operate as a morgue. County officials are looking to sign a contract with a willing funeral home by July 1, 2012, however the report states that this won’t be a sufficient long-term solution.

“The Civil grand Jury believes this is an adequate approach if all Marin County needs is a band-aid,” the report states.

Although this plan is less expensive, many local funeral homes do not have the equipment, like X-rays and storage for tissue samples, to perform professional autopsies and adhere to the National Association of Medical Examiners’ standards.

Napa County Morgue

In 2011, Marin spent approximately $110,000 for autopsies, of which $11,500 was paid to Napa County. During that year, 115 autopsies were carried out and five were performed in Napa.

If all autopsies in 2011 were performed in Napa, the cost would have been $225,000, or$115,000 more than the funeral homes, according to the report. The Grand Jury said the facilities are worth the extra cost, but the biggest disadvantage is the transportation to and from Napa.

Read the full report on the right.

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