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Detroit's bankruptcy affects the dead

Aug. 29, 2013 at 10:11 AM   |   Comments

DETROIT, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- The bumps along the road of Detroit's journey through bankruptcy included an interruption in the processing of death certificates, officials say.

A Detroit funeral home director sent out a text message to his colleagues last month saying, "FYI, city of Detroit can't process death certificates because they have no paper and don't have money to buy any."

The Detroit News reported Thursday the problem cropped up July 23, five days into the bankruptcy, when a paper vender demanded cash payment for the special embossed paper rather than continue to let the city operate on credit.

"Have you ever heard such a crock?" Wallace Williams, president of the Michigan Select Funeral Directors Association, replied when asked about the paper shortage. "They told us they ran out of paper and it might take five days to get some."

The glitch had real world effects since without death certificates, families were unable to access bank accounts, deal with insurance companies or handle probate court matters, the newspaper said.

Bill Nowling, spokesman for Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, said city's first-ever certificate crisis soon ended once the vendor's concerns were met.

But it's not the only issue related to dying in Detroit these days. The city is closing its vital records department Oct. 1, turning that responsibility over to Wayne County, Nowling said. Also, the county morgue recently told funeral directors it will no longer release bodies on Sundays and the medical examiner's office is now closed on holidays, as well.

"Back in the day, they'd release bodies all day long," Williams said.

"Death doesn't take any holidays. Death happens every day of the week and especially on weekends."

Topics: Wayne County
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