ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – The St. Louis County Council will consider a health department proposal to spend $300,000 to do a study on building a new morgue. The current one does not have enough space to store bodies, and it’s getting worse.
The lack of storage space at the St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office caused the county to transport the bodies to places like funeral homes. FOX 2 reached out to Council Chairwoman Rita Days about the study’s need to solve the problems the morgue is facing.
“Well, it may be in our court, but you’re utilizing money from the ARPA funding,” Days said. “As I said earlier, the ARPA pandemic funding is not rolling right now. We hope we’ll be able to spend that later on. But if this is indeed an emergency, you can take your health department money, and you can start the study because my understanding is that the study is going to be at least six months, so that’s not going to address the immediate problem.”
Days admitted there needed to be a solution.
“We’re waiting on leadership,” she said. “We’re waiting on the county executive to give us an idea, a plan of what he wants to do and how he wants to do that. And we just have not had that.”
The St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office has seen a 300 percent increase in homicides since 2011. They also saw a 200 percent increase in drug-related deaths and a rise in suicides and COVID-19 deaths.
Elliott talked to St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch.
“We’re to the point now that this really has to be an effort that we work with the county executive on,” said Tim Fitch, St. Louis County councilman. “We’re going to get about $45 million as an opioid settlement through the state of Missouri that’s coming our way. I personally think, it should be earmarked for the medical examiner’s office to completely restructure that facility or build a brand-new facility. It needs to be dedicated to that. I haven’t heard that commitment from the county executive’s office; it’s just that we could look at that.”
Fitch said they knew the morgue had an issue with storage space.
“We knew this was a problem. We knew this wasn’t going away,” he said. “It was getting worse and really what the county has done is dragging its feet.”
A spokesperson for St. Louis County Executive Sam page’s office released the following statement:
“Dr. Page months ago said the county council should make it a priority to address the challenges facing the medical examiner’s office. It is ultimately the legislative branch that determines how county dollars are appropriated, and we hope they take this issue seriously.”