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St. Joseph Co. Council asked to build new center for autopsies

By Chad Damp, cdamp@wsbt.com
Published On: Sep 24 2013 10:28:50 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 24 2013 11:00:47 PM CDT

A specific and modern place to perform autopsies, it's something St. Joseph County has been lacking for years. The county coroner has to use outdated facilities at local hospitals or even send bodies to Fort Wayne for autopsies.

Inadequate facilities and equipment, a lack of proper storage space and the potential for trouble after a major disaster were a few of the reasons given to the St. Joseph County Council Tuesday night during a pitch for a new Center for Forensic Science.

But the plan, which was presented to the council by a group from the South Bend Medical Foundation, comes with a hefty price tag. $750,000 in start-up funds, all being asked to come from the county.

"We feel strongly that for this project to move forward in that it is the county's responsibility to have adequate autopsy facilities that they need to step forward and create a resolution to support it moving forward," said Bob King, Senior Vice President at SBMF.

But the facility would be used by more than just St. Joseph County. There's the possibility to lease space out to Notre Dame and IU South Bend for medical education and research. Also to hospitals for tissue donations and a place for other counties to have autopsies performed.

"I think it was a bit of a surprise to most of us sitting there tonight that they were asking us to make the most significant investment in capital outlays," said Council President Pro-Tempore Mark Catanzarite.

The Council plans to do more research on the facility, including looking for additional or alternate funding. A resolution declaring the County's stance on the facility is expected to be discussed at the Council's October 8th meeting. If the resolution passes it does not necessarily mean the county will approve the funding. The proposed site for the center is the former Frank's Wholesale Florist building in Mishawaka.