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Why does Johnson County need a coroner facility?

Currently, all autopsies performed by the Johnson County Coroner and his staff are conducted at a private facility in Kansas City, Kansas (we are not referring to private autopsies that may be requested by families or by physicians for non-law enforcement investigation purposes). The county spends about $550,000 annually for autopsy services from a private facility. While this facility provides the basic level of service, the District Attorney and county coroner believe Johnson County residents are at a significant disadvantage by not having a county facility. 

Using this outside facility limits the number of autopsies we conduct which means we are likely missing important information needed to determine that a crime has been committed, or to identify a new or unusual disease in our community. If we had our own facility, we would be able to conduct many more autopsies on suspicious or unusual deaths that currently simply cannot be done. This would help us to identify trends from potential emerging disease outbreaks, as well as trends in crime, addiction, abuse including elder abuse, and other issues that currently go unrecognized or unreported, and therefore, are not being addressed. 

We know these autopsies are not happening because Johnson County does not conduct autopsies at a rate in accordance with our population, national benchmarks and other peer metropolitan counties. This puts our community at risk. 

A new, county owned and managed coroner facility provides:

  • Control over the prioritization of the county’s autopsy work allowing us to complete more autopsies and to get vital information needed.
  • An on-site toxicology lab providing more effective and reliable investigative results
  • A modern, accredited facility with appropriate separation of key functions including ventilation systems designed for elimination of hazardous exposures
  • Real time data reporting for epidemics and crime
  • Space for autopsy observations
  • Space which is supportive for decedent’s family members
  • Ability to accommodate future growth in medicolegal death investigations
  • Support for mass fatality events

Please see jocogov.org/coroner-facility for more information.