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Grim Problem: Morgue space needed in Winnebago County

Winnebago County Emergency Morgue
Posted at 6:09 PM, Sep 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-06 19:09:16-04
  • Winnebago County currently has no dedicated space to store bodies, and has been turning to funeral homes for help
  • The County recently received a temporary emergency morgue, and is working toward building a permanent morgue in Oshkosh
  • County Medical Examiner Cheryl Brehmer says the new morgue is needed amid a rise of overdose deaths

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

Winnebago County is working on a solution to a grim problem, I’m your Oshkosh neighborhood reporter, Seth Humeniuk. The county currently doesn’t have a dedicated space to store bodies, but is working on getting a permanent morgue built here behind the sheriff’s office. It has recently received a temporary morgue for emergency use.

“We had realized during COVID that we have a shortage of overall morgue capacity in Winnebago County and throughout our region," Rasmussen said.

Eric Rasmussen is Winnebago County’s director of emergency management. He says the mobile morgue, which was donated by Fox Valley Healthcare Emergency Readiness Coalition and will be able to hold up to eight bodies, will be helpful for future mass casualty events like accidents and severe weather.

“As there are shortages throughout the state of pathologists and timelines to get autopsies continue to lengthen, it allows us that capacity to keep those bodies in a secure location in house until we can get them autopsied," Rasmussen said.

Cheryl Brehmer is the county medical examiner.

She says the county is seeing an increase in drug-related deaths. She says the permanent morgue will help take the strain off funeral homes, which the county has been relying on for storage.

“Times are changing overall, we’re seeing an increase each year in overdoses which is, you know, not necessarily overwhelming the funeral homes, but things are continuing to get busier for them as well," said Brehmer.

And she says it will be a better space for examinations as well.

"They’re very limited examinations versus what we could do if we had our own facility...right now we have limited ability to clean them up to be able to better get documentation of any injuries.”

Brehmer says the project is currently out for bid, but hopes to break ground by the end of the year. In Oshkosh, Seth Humeniuk, NBC 26.