Funding approved for pathology center to serve eastern Idaho
POCATELLO — A new pathology center may soon be able to provide autopsies in eastern Idaho, cutting the need to travel to and from Ada County.
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a supplemental appropriation for the center at a meeting Wednesday.
What was approved was an allocation of $900,000 from the Governor’s budget to Idaho State University for partial funding of the East Idaho Forensic Pathology Center in Pocatello. In a proposal to the committee, Bannock County commissioners agreed to cover the remaining $2 million the pathology center would cost out of American Rescue Plan Act money.
A contingent of Bannock County officials attended the meeting to push for the approval. Among them was County Commissioner Terrel Tovey, who said in a release that the Ada County Coroner Office has been asked to accomplish an “enormous feat” serving the entire state.
“An additional center to conduct autopsies in Idaho would improve everyone’s efficiency, and lighten the load off Ada County,” Tovey said.
Tovey was joined by fellow Bannock County commissioners Ernie Moser and Jeff Hough, as well as prosecutor Steven Herzog and coroner Torey Danner in Boise for the committee meeting.
Danner spoke to improved efficiency, saying in the release that in order to send a body out for autopsy that body must be accompanied by at least one sheriff’s deputy, one member of the prosecutor’s office and one member of his own two-man team.
“Any time I have to be out of the office in Boise, that’s a whole day I can’t help my partner,” Danner said in the release.
“From a practical standpoint, traveling to Ada County, three hours up, three hours back, for a three-hour autopsy is a lot of time and expense,” Herzog said in the release. “Hopefully, (the center) would expedite the turnaround time on getting autopsies done and the reports done. That would expedite the resolution of cases, which is good for everybody, especially family members.”
According to the proposal letter, the Ada County forensic pathology center currently performs all of Idaho’s autopsies — about 750 per year. The letter continues, claiming that the state should be performing closer to 1,700 per year.
The East Idaho Forensic Pathology Center, a partnership between Bannock County and ISU, would assist in getting the state closer to that expectant number.
While the appropriation was approved by the committee, it must now be approved by both the Idaho House of Representatives and the Idaho Senate. Should it get those approvals, it would then require signing from Gov. Brad Little.
While that process could take weeks, according to Bannock County Public Information Officer Emma Iannacone, the process of finding a forensic pathologist has already begun.
“Once we get that person hired things will start to move a little bit quicker because we want them to have input in what equipment they need and how they want the lab to be laid out,” she told EastIdahoNews.com
According to Iannacone, should funding be approved by the state legislature, Bannock County is still more than a year out from the opening of the pathology center.
Once the center is opened, however, the county believes it will be able to serve 13 counties across eastern Idaho, including Bonneville, Madison and Bear Lake.
Once opened, “the program is expected to be self-sustaining through user fees from participating counties and the streamlined effectiveness of death investigations,” the proposal letter said.