As of last Thursday, the coroner’s office had investigated 299 cases in 2016. Of those, only four were turned over to a municipality or township as unclaimed for indigent burial, according to the coroner’s office.
Mannix said sometimes people are estranged from their families, their family lives out of town or even out of the country, or they are elderly and don’t have anyone else.
The coroner said the office tries to find someone to claim the body within 10 days because there is limited space in the county’s morgue cooler.
“And there is a decay process that begins … we do our best to find someone in the first couple days,” Mannix said.
Mannix and Middletown Heath Commissioner Jackie Phillips said there are families who cannot afford to pay for a loved one’s final expenses, and that is when the city steps in to cover the costs for indigent burial.
In Middletown, the number of indigent cremations remained steady at 38 in 2013 and 2014, according to the health department. But so far this year, the city has picked up the tab for 35 cremations, totaling more than $17,000. The cost is $505 per cremation.
“You know, it used to be everyone had life insurance for burial through their work, but with people unemployed and working part time, that is a thing of the past,” Phillips said, adding more often families just can’t afford burial, rather than not wanting to do it.