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Board moves morgue services to Hennepin County

For more than 20 years, the morgue on the lower level of Regina Medical Center has served as the Regional Medical Examiner's Office for a number of area counties, including Dakota.

That will change as of Jan. 1.

At its regular meeting this week the Dakota county Board of Commissioners agreed to execute a cooperative agreement with Hennepin County for morgue and medical examiner support services effective Jan. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2016.

As part of the cooperative agreement, the county board also appointed Hennepin County medical examiner Dr. Anthony Baker as Dakota County medical examiner and authorized him to appoint assistant Dakota County medical examiners. Dr. Lindsey Thomas, who has been Dakota County medical examiner, has resigned from her current position effective at the end of the year and will be appointed an assistant Dakota County medical examiner. She becomes an employee of Hennepin County.

As part of the county's 2013 budget, the expected cost for medical examiner services with Hennepin is about $1.1 million. The 2013 budget has not been formally approved. There is a 2 percent increase in contract cost for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Dakota County has been studying space and future need for medical examiner services since early last year. The facility at Regina Medical Center has not been meeting current space needs and the county began considering other options.

Last summer, Hennepin County approached Dakota County about providing the services.

According to the approved contract, Hennepin County agrees to provide a number of professional services, including death investigation services, autopsies, forensic pathologist consults on living victims when requested, complete case record maintenance services, notification of next of kin whenever feasible, communication with families, court appearances for grand juries and trial.