Cost of Dying Places Financial Burden on Families - 8 News NOW

Cost of Dying Places Financial Burden on Families

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    Thursday, February 28 2013 2:00 AM EST2013-02-28 07:00:03 GMT
    LAS VEGAS -- The Clark County Coroner's Office said many families do not have a plan in place when a loved one dies, leaving the high costs to those left behind. As a result, many families are turningMore>>
    The Clark County Coroner's Office said many families do not have a plan in place when a loved one dies, leaving the high costs to those left behind.More>>

LAS VEGAS -- Not only does death have an emotional impact on families, it also has a financial one.

It's the reason why Clark County is dealing with an increasing number of bodies going unclaimed by families. They simply cannot afford to bury or cremate their loved ones.  

Indigent burials cost taxpayers about $500,000 a year and county officials don't expect that amount to decrease in the near future.

Grandfather Phil Tucker and his family went through what most can't even imagine when 10-year-old Jade Morris' stabbed body was found dumped in an undeveloped neighborhood. Adding to the stress of the situation was the unanticipated costs of laying Jade to rest.

"Not being able to work. Not having any money coming in. At the same time, bills are steadily mounting," Tucker said.

Tucker and his family tried to raise money for Jade's funeral, but originally had little success. 

Iit's hard for you to ask for money," he said.

The unexpected costs started to add up. Even the colorful programs for Jade's funeral cost more than $900.

"It's a lot of hidden costs involved when something like this happens," Tucker said.

Eventually a community group helped pay for the girl to be cremated. Many valley families don't have that kind of help.

Director Anthony Malone with Clark County Social Services has seen more and more people turning to county to cover the cost of burials or cremations.

"Our cases, our referrals have gone up about five percent from last year, and we've seen double that, maybe about 10 percent over the last two years," Malone said.

8 News NOW tracked down numbers for the past four years. The numbers showed Clark County handled the remains of more than 1,000 people from 2011 to 2012. Taxpayers are also paying more. Clark County paid more than $500,000 to bury or cremate people in the past year.

"That puts a challenge and a strain on our community, there's no doubt about it," said Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy.

He says the valley is unique in that many people move here without family, loved ones or a support system. When they die, cremation and burial costs will sometimes be left for the county to shoulder, instead of family. While Murphy says this is a service the government must provide, he says the county assisting with Nevada's remains is not taken lightly.

"It is taxpayer dollars and you know it's our responsibility to make sure those dollars are being spent appropriately," he said.

Those tax dollars end up sending Clark County's remains to James Mullikin.

"It goes back to a nation caring for their dead," said James Mullikin with Bunkers Mortuary.

He manages the mortuary which is home to many of the county's indigent cremations. More than 100 cremains are placed in a single, unmarked crypt.

"We do treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless if it's a person that has no money or if it's the richest person in Las Vegas."

Bunkers is also one of seven mortuaries on what's called the coroner's rotation. The mortuaries take turns, one week at a time, picking up every body in Clark County, many times they lose money as they must refer those who cannot pay to they county.

"It has gone up in the last couple of years," Mullikin said.

Like other families, Tucker wanted to give Jade everything for her final goodbye, right down to custom DVD's of her and him singing together.

Tucker said, whether the funeral is expensive or not, the biggest burden is saying goodbye to a loved one.

Click here for information on county cremations and burials


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