Platte County's medical examiner costs double

With costs for medical examiner services on the rise, the Platte County Commission is looking at options for the future.

The county saw the fee for these services from the Jackson County Medical Examiner more than double this year. In 2017, Platte County paid Jackson $125,835. At the Monday, June 18 administrative session, commissioners approved a $259,038 agreement with Jackson County.

According to director of administration Dana Babcock, the county budgeted $160,000 for these services this year, anticipating an increase. However, due to the sharp increase the county will need to adjust its budget later in the year.

“We’ve been using medical examiner services through Jackson County for many years now,” said presiding commissioner Ron Schieber. “The cost continues to escalate and we are going to be looking at other options and opportunities. Unfortunately, there just are not a lot of organizations that provide this service so our hands are a bit tied with this, but we’re looking at other options down the road.”

Schieber said the commissioners would work with the sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices in this search for other options.

Most area governments utilize the services of the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s office, including the City of Kansas City,  Cass and Platte counties. Clay County formerly utilized the same services but balked at the increased cost this year and selected Fronier Forensics Midwest after the Kansas City, Kan., company, which specializes in private autopsies, was the only bid received. Maintaining, staffing, licensing and accreditation of medical examiner offices are cost-prohibitive for most entities, and contracts for service are common. The medical examiner’s office provides trained death investigators to conduct scene investigations of homicides, suicides, accidental and natural deaths. Board-certified forensic pathologists also provide examinations of bodies and provide expert testimony in court.

Platte County has contracted medical examiner services with Jackson County for many years, and in 2016 paid $92,293. When Platte County officials received word that a significant bump was on the horizon, Sheriff Mark Owen budgeted $190,000 to cover the service in 2017. Last October, the commissioners approved an agreement after months of negotiations to try to reduce costs.