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Medical Examiner’s Office Welcomes Mobile Unit To Help Address Overcrowding

The Jacksonville Medical Examiner’s Office Monday received a mobile-unit to house more office space. It’s part of a $206,000 city plan to temporarily address the morgue’s overcrowding.

“We had to stagger the doctors to go down and do the cases because we don’t have the space,” Medical Examiner Valerie Rao said. “But the city has been extremely helpful to us. They have  brought the trailer.”

The trailer is about 400-square-feet for pathology residents to work on autopsy reports, the office’s Director of Operations Tim Crutchfield said. Around the corner from it, Crutchfield pointed out the area a soon-to-be delivered outdoor cooler will sit. It  will nearly double the storage space for bodies, increasing the number of body trays from 50 to 90.

The city approved this expansion plan back in January after Dr. Rao said coolers were at capacity, a problem that continues today, she said.

“This is going to be a help,” she said. “God forbid we have a mass disaster, then we are really going to be in trouble.”

Rao said she blames a growing population and the opioid epidemic for the overcrowding.  

“We have three drug overdoses today out of the 12 cases,” she said. “So that’s putting a strain on us too.”

The cooler is set to be delivered in the beginning of April. Rao said the measure is a temporary fix, as she wants a new facility.

Mayor Lenny Curry has a $16 million medical examiner’s building included the city’s capital improvement plan, but that’s at least five years away. His Chief Administrative Officer, Sam  Mousa, said back in January that will be moved up.

“We are going to take action in the next couple of years to begin the process in developing a new facility,” Mousa said at the time.

The medical examiner's office also serves Clay, Nassau, Hamilton and Columbia counties. Mousa also said back in January, the city will consider asking them to share the cost.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.