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Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Number of unclaimed bodies increases since 2010 budget cuts to Kansas program

May 31, 2011, 9:00 a.m. Updated May 31, 2011, 6:17 p.m.

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— A decision to end state funding for a program that helped poor people pay for funerals has left some Kansas counties responsible for more unclaimed bodies, according to some county officials and funeral directors.

The program, administered by the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, paid $550 to some families on assistance who needed help to pay for a relative's funeral. The program's annual $520,000 budget was stopped in 2010 and requests to have the money restored were rejected during the last legislative session.

If no one claims a body, the county where the person died is responsible for paying for cremation, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Tuesday.

"I'm sure each county has picked up additional bodies that they are responsible for," said Pam Scott, executive director of the Kansas Funeral Directors Association. "We did ask the Legislature for funds this year, but with the financial condition of the state, we weren't able to procure any funding."

The program helped pay for funerals for 1,194 people in 2009 and 589 people in the first seven months of the 2010 budget year.

Seven bodies, and boxes filled with the cremated remains of seven other people, have gone unclaimed in the Shawnee County Coroner's Office, which often handles cases from other counties.

"We dreaded the SRS change," said Sharon Mandel, chief medical examiner for Shawnee County. "We didn't get hit right off the bat. But now we have several bodies and cremains. It's just a change we have seen throughout the last year. It's a problem across the whole country, not just here."

Three of the bodies came from Shawnee County, one is from Allen County, two are from Douglas County and one is from Cherokee County. One of the two bodies from Douglas County will probably require financial assistance from the county, said Assistant County Administrator Sarah Plinsky. Plinsky said she doesn't believe Douglas County will face this situation more than once or twice per year at an expense of $500 to $700 each time.

Two unclaimed bodies were cremated in January. Investigators work hard to try and find family members or friends, Mandel said.

"We try to get the story on these people the best we can," Mandel said. "Some people will step forward, some people won't."

Often a family simply can't afford a funeral. In other cases, the person who died has a criminal background or is estranged from loved ones.

Shawnee County Coroner Erik Mitchell said his office "definitely has a higher census in the morgue."

"This year, for the first time, we have ended up with a situation where we have been at borderline capacity," he said.

Comments

Craig Weinaug 3 years, 6 months ago

Another example of state budget cutting that saves taxpayers exactly zero tax dollars. The state cuts their budget by eliminating the payments from the state budget, but the state then mandates that the counties pay for what the state cut. The state officials are able to take credit for balancing their budget without increasing taxes, but the expenditure still has to be made at a different level of government that receives its revenue from the the same taxpayer.

The only change is that the expenditure is now supported primarily through property tax and sales tax dollars instead of income taxes. The dollars involved in this example are relatively small, but this is only one example of what the state has done many times over the last few years. The shift in tax burden from the state to the local level (and by extension from income taxes to property taxes) involves millions of dollars annually in Douglas County alone.

kernal 3 years, 6 months ago

The article states counties pays for burials of the bodies. I wonder about that since many cemeteries are running out of space and grave sites usually cost at least $5,000, depending on supply and demand. I suspect it is more likely that bodies are cremated, but then what happens to the ashes?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

Typical Republican solution to any problem-- pretend it doesn't exist.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

Actually, the typical Democratic response these days is to take the same bribes that Republicans get, and then just roll over while the Republicans run roughshod.

kernal 3 years, 6 months ago

Agree, Bozo. The old Republican creed was "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Now it seems to be "if it ain't in my backyard, don't fix it cuz it ain't there" .

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

Republicans also have a habit of fixing what ain't broken. Kobach's vote suppression measure is one of the most recent examples.

Centerville 3 years, 6 months ago

Number 1 question: how many more unclaimed bodies are there? How many are held over from 2009?

clovis_sangrail 3 years, 6 months ago

The lead paragraph states "The number of unclaimed bodies in Kansas has increased since the state ended a program that helped poor families pay for funerals."

How about some number to back that up?

How many bodies are stacking up in Kansas?

And of local interest -- How many does Douglas County have iced down right now?

Also, what does Douglas County do with the ones here?

Of course, answering these questions would require actual, real reporting, not just ripping something off the AP wire and plopping it in the paper to fill a three-inch news hole.

gudpoynt 3 years, 6 months ago

I bet you wouldn't have come up with these tertiary questions had the story not run.

The fact that you're raising questions given new information implies that you are more informed after having read the article.

The questions you raise are good ones, but you don't have to be a jerk about it. Please forgive the AP writer and LJWorld editors for not winning a Pulitzer on this story and try being grateful that you now know something that you previously didn't. Sheesh.

somebodynew 3 years, 6 months ago

Read the article in CJonline for details.

3 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, another filler piece. A little reporting could have made it a better article, like the CJonline has.

Scott Morgan 3 years, 6 months ago

On a regular basis take the bodies to Tall Grass Nat. Park and do the ceremonies Native American Style.

This and opening the lakes to private development will make us a tourist mecca. Caaching!

vuduchyld 3 years, 6 months ago

Maybe everybody should just carry around spare tires in case they get a flat?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

I do at least one better than that-- I carry around my own rubber tree so I can make a new one should the need ever arise.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

They've changed the name-- now it's called DeaconBlue.

introspector 3 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

CloveK 3 years, 6 months ago

Again, another example of Brownback making cuts to save the state pennies on the dollar.

Keep giving the huge tax breaks to corporations tho! That certainly does more to make the state money while attracting new business. Forget actually investing in the state.

nut_case 3 years, 6 months ago

Interesting choice of headline. My simple math says 589 deaths in 7 months extrapolated out to 12 months = ~1,010 deaths. But instead of trumpeting the news of death rate dropping by nearly 20%, we mention a few more unclaimed bodies?

Overall, I guess I don't see anything wrong with changing this from a state fund to a county fund. It's great for people who live in counties which don't see unclaimed bodies. Even the gleaming city of Lawrence / Doug. Co can free itself from the dregs of the state / Shawnee Co.

llama726 3 years, 6 months ago

Yes, money is far more important than giving a damn about your fellow Kansans.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

BTW does anyone know what Sam Brownback is doing with the money he is not spending on bodies and fired state workers and the public school budget and .......

Where is the money?

How much is Brownback paying to new admin employees from out of state?

Craig pointed out a long time neocon tax cut trick. Been going on for about 31 years under Reaganomics Wreckanomics.

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