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Michigan forms team to address funeral home problems

November 1, 2018

DETROIT (AP) — Officials in Michigan announced Thursday that the governor has created a team to address funeral home problems after authorities recently found remains of dozens of fetuses at two Detroit funeral homes.

The team will include members from multiple state agencies and will investigate allegations of improper body disposal, prepaid funeral violations and other complaints. It follows an increase in complaints handled by mortuary science regulators with Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, that office said.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is also adding three new regulators, bringing the total to seven. The Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ mortuary science program oversees 751 funeral homes and more than 2,100 mortuary science licenses in Michigan. It also has oversight over pre-paid funeral contracts.

Police have been investigating Detroit’s shuttered Cantrell Funeral Home after mummified remains of 10 fetuses and a full-term infant were found hidden last month in a ceiling. Regulators had closed that business shuttered in April due to improperly stored bodies. Another Detroit business, the Perry Funeral Home, is under investigation after authorities subsequently found 36 fetuses in boxes and 27 others in freezers.

“We have seen a recent spike in complaints from consumers and others in the funeral home industry and unfortunately these allegations have led to several horrific discoveries,” Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director Shelly Edgerton said in a release. “I thank the governor for organizing this team that will focus on holding funeral homes accountable and safeguarding a family’s right to have their loved one put to rest in a dignified and respectful manner.”

Regulators in March suspended the mortuary science establishment license of the Charles G. Parks Funeral Home in Petoskey after an inspection found unsanitary conditions in an embalming room, human cremated remains stored alongside those of animals and other violations. The state says embalmed bodies also were found in an unrefrigerated garage and that at least $4,935 for prepaid funeral goods or services was not put into escrow.

Swanson Funeral Home in Flint was closed in July 2017 after maggots were found on the floor of a garage where unrefrigerated bodies were stored.

Staff members from Michigan’s Health and Human Services and Environmental Quality departments, and the State Police will be on the state’s team looking into allegations of violations by funeral homes.

Health and Human Services is responsible for various aspects of the state’s public health code and oversight of emergency services for burials. Environmental Quality handles registration of medical waste-producing facilities and regulation of other environmental laws. State Police investigate fraud.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said his department welcomes the enhanced efforts to address licensing violations by funeral homes.

Funeral professionals also support and encourage any effort to improve communication and cooperation among these agencies, said Phil Douma, executive director of the Michigan Funeral Directors Association.

“A family’s peace of mind is a funeral director’s utmost priority, and funeral directors across our state are committed to working with state agencies to ensure that peace of mind is ensured,” Douma added.

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