Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $98,732)
Kansas has historically used the coroner system model, and autopsies were conducted by a private provider at each county’s expense. In 2015, Johnson County commissioned a feasibility study to determine if a medical examiner’s office would improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness. With results in hand, the new medical examiner’s office became a division of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. Johnson County broke ground on the $26 million, 33,000-square-foot facility in December 2018, funded by a voter-approved public safety sales tax increase. The state-of-the-art Johnson County Medical Examiner’s Office officially opened in June 2020, complete with its own in-house toxicology lab and imaging suite. The office is currently staffed by two board certified forensic pathologists, five full-time death investigators (four ABMDI certified), two autopsy technicians, three toxicology staff, and two administrative assistants. Since opening its doors, the office has investigated approximately 2700 deaths and has conducted approximately 180 full autopsies. The office currently serves a population of approximately 600,000 people with plans to expand services to other neighboring counties as staffing allows. The office plans to apply for its initial NAME accreditation by October 2022 and is requesting grant funding for the initial accreditation fee.
The toxicology laboratory is still in the process of acquiring equipment and validating procedures, so the office currently utilizes two private reference labs for postmortem toxicology testing. Grant funding is also being requested for the purchase for the final needed piece of equipment. Once this equipment is procured, staff expect to attain American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT) laboratory accreditation by June 2023. ABFT accreditation is necessary for the laboratory to perform testing under NAME accreditation.