In a deal reached last week, Franklin County will join with neighboring Jefferson and St. Charles counties in a consortium to contract medical examiner services direct from the source, eliminating St. Louis University (SLU) from the equation.
Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said all of the services the county currently receives will be the same and provided by the same people.
“SLU is done, their contract is over,” Griesheimer said. “This has been a longtime coming. It’s really the best path forward.”
Griesheimer explained the services will begin Jan. 1, and morgue services will be provided by St. Louis County with at least three pathologists working for the consortium.
St. Charles County will provide limited office space for the examiners and will also take care of billing.
St. Louis University will still perform histology and toxicology tests and provide record storage.
The new contract is $310,540 per year for three years for Franklin County, and Griesheimer says any increases would be minimal.
“St. Charles County started negotiations with the pathologists and it went from there,” Griesheimer said. “We’ve still got a couple of issues we need to iron out, but we had to make a change.”
As detailed in the budget, the total cost for all three counties will be $1,433,142 per year.
St. Charles County will pay $616,202, and Jefferson County will pay $506,400.
Griesheimer said both of those county governments are still in the process of approving the agreements.
To complement the new medical examiner arrangement, the commission Tuesday named Russell Rost as chief death investigator.
Currently the county employs three death investigators who are called to the scene any time a death is discovered in the county.
The investigators made a preliminary determination of death and then refer the case to the medical examiner for autopsy or further investigations.
Along with Rost, sheriff’s deputies Capt. Chuck Subke and Teresa Lustwert are the only three death investigators to cover the whole county.
Griesheimer said the commission plans to hire three additional investigators to bring the total to six.
The search for new medical examiner services began in earnest last summer when SLU proposed a $100,000 yearly increase for examiner services over last year.
Franklin, St. Charles and Jefferson counties were all confronted with the same large increases.
The commission reviewed several options, including the consortium.
Second District Commissioner Dave Hinson said the increase proposed by SLU was unacceptable.
“We felt like we were being held hostage,” Hinson said. “I guess they (SLU) thought we didn’t have any other options.”