Commissioners set policy for indigent cremation

When someone dies and no one claims the body, the responsibility to care for the deceased falls on county government.

The county commissioners approved a policy Wednesday to resolve inconsistencies on that issue.

The policy will cover up to $500 for costs “only for eligible individuals who have no kind or no kin willing to take responsibility.”

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin said the situation comes up a few times a year. A funeral home will care for the deceased and then bill the county.

The benefit to the policy, he added, will be to “have some consistency” on the process.

State law on the matter, which dates to 1955, states that the commissioners “shall provide for the burial of any person who dies in the county unless his body is claimed by a relative by blood or marriage, or by a friend, or by his fraternal or veterans’ organization, or by a charitable organization, or by the Anatomical Board of the State of Pennsylvania, and is buried at the expense of such relative, friend or organization.”

State law lists the amount of $300 but the policy approved on Wednesday stipulates $500 as a maximum cost.

“This is what the market is telling us in Warren County,” Kafferlin said.

According to the policy, the coroner determines eligibility and the policy states that the “commissioners sign off on every individual disbursement.”

“When the body of a dead person is found within the County and such person was not an inmate of a correctional, benevolent, or charitable institution of Pennsylvania; and the body is not claimed by any person for private interment or cremation at the person’s own expense; or delivered for the purpose of medical or surgical study or dissection” the county will cover the cost subject to criteria.

Those criteria require that the individual is indigent – an alternate term for poor – and “a legal resident of the county at the time of death.”


The commissioners on Wednesday also approved a new five-year agreement with Forest County for 911 dispatch service.

Public Safety Director Ken McCorrison said that Warren County dispatchers cover the eastern portion of Forest County.

Commissioner Tricia Durbin said the memorandum sets the quarterly rate at $11,695.

McCorrison said the first year of the new agreement, 2023, brings a 13% increase compared to this year with 1% increases to follow in each subsequent year through 2027.


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