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Controversy over death investigation services in Saginaw Co. impacting funeral homes

By Jamie Sherrod, Brianna Owczarzak

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    MICHIGAN (WNEM) — Controversy continues in mid-Michigan after a forensic science agency paused work with a local community.

The Michigan Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine (MIFSM) said Saginaw County has a past due account of more than $100,000, causing the department to stop certain services performed after a person dies.

“As funeral directors, our job is to get the dead where they need to go and the living where they need to be,” said Spencer Skorupski, funeral home director with Skorupski Family Funeral Homes.

Skorupski said that job has been difficult after the MIFSM stopped serving Saginaw County due to nonpayment.

“These things certainly impact families that are losing a loved one,” Skorupski said.

The MIFSM is withholding services like cremation permits, death certificates, autopsies and more until payment is made by the county.

Skorupski said he is adding this to the list of problems he has already had with the county.

“The services currently, and as of late, with the medical examiner services in Saginaw County have been very, very problematic,” Skorupski said.

Skorupski said those problems include weeklong delays with autopsies and problems with important paperwork for funeral services.

“The amount of time it takes for necessary paperwork such as death certificates, cremation permits to be completed in a timely manner is just subpar,” Skorupski said.

He said it often adds to the pain and heartache families are already dealing with. Especially for those relying on insurance money after losing a loved one who may have been the breadwinner.

“The family cannot obtain those insurance funds until the death certificate is completed, and it has taken an unnecessary amount of time,” Skorupski said.

Skorupski hopes things get better for the sake of his business and grieving families. In the meantime, he said he is working on their behalf.

“Just know all of your funeral directors in the area, we are your advocates at this most difficult hour,” he said.

Saginaw County Controller Robert Belleman said the county exercised the “termination for cause” provision in its agreement with MIFSM after the institute removed the county’s medical examiner without prior consent.

The agreement between the county and MIFSM prohibited the institute from removing or replacing Dr. Bush without prior consent from the county, Belleman said, adding MIFSM terminated Bush’s employment on Nov. 19.

The termination of the agreement goes into effect 180 days after the county gave notice to MIFSM.

MIFSM said it is withholding services until payment is made, but Belleman said the institute is contractually obligated to provide those services over the remaining 180 days of the agreement.

“These are very important services to the community and, more specifically, to the family of loved ones of the deceased. The county will do all it can to ensure a seamless transition to this abrupt interruption,” Belleman said.

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