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Politics & Government

Health Dept. proposing forensic examiner's office transfer to UND

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The state Health Department is looking at a proposal to transfer the state forensic examiner’s office from the Health Department to the UND Medical School.

That office is in charge of such things as autopsies.

The proposal is in the Health Department's budget request given to Gov. Doug Burgum.

"We have taken a look at the work that was being done," said Health Department chief financial officer Brenda Weisz. "UND may be better positioned to leverage other funding sources or other grants."

Weisz said the Department also thought UND could initiate a "forensic pathology" fellowship program.

The forensic examiner's office is now in Bismarck. Weisz said there may be a consideration of distance and transportation costs.

"If Grand Forks would be an issue for the western counties, Bismarck could still serve as a satellite," Weisz said.

Right now, UND performs autopsies for the 21 eastern North Dakota counties.

Weisz said this has just been opened for discussion – between the Health Department, UND and the Governor’s office.

The Department is also proposing a change in funding for the Vital Records program. That's the office where people can get birth and death certificates and other documents. Weisz said the fees charged by the office have normally gone back to the state's general fund.

"We're looking at those fees being retained in a special fund," Weisz said. "That would pay for the division's operational costs."

That proposal is also part of the Health Department’s budget request. Gov. Doug Burgum will present his budget recommendations to the Legislature at its December organizational session.