Keweenaw County approves ME budget

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Board members Del Rajala (left), Julie Carlson, county clerk, Jim Vivian, board chairman Don Piche, Sandra Gayk, and Bob DeMarois, discuss the new Keweenaw County Medical Examiner’s Office, budget, staff and training before approving the budget.

EAGLE RIVER — The Keweenaw County Board approved a budget of $11,500 for a Medical Examiner’s Office, plus an additional $3,500 for the training of two medical examiner investigators. Janice Heikenen is Keweenaw County’s new medical examiner, and Michael McAllister as the deputy medical examiner. McAllister is a general surgeon with Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital in Laurium. The ME’s office will be located in the Sheriff’s Office.

Once the staff has been created and the investigators have completed training, Heikenen will oversee the administration duties of the department, as well as setting schedules, rotations, and other staff considerations.

“The coordination of the investigators, the record keeping, the continuing education, licensing, all of that I’d monitor,” Heikenen said.

The budgeted $3,500 for training will include transportation and hotel costs, she said, but in creating the budget, she did not include the cost of food.

Two options for the training would be at St. Louis University, which she said is among the best in the nation for the type of training required.

“St. Louis University, which is really pretty much the gold standard for it,” Heikenen said. “It’s the best available. The other, which also an excellent program, is through the University of North Dakota, which is an online program. I’ve taken their courses, and I’m very impressed with their content. So, between the one that’s university-based and the one that’s online, I think $3,500 is a good price.”

Board member Sandra Gayk expressed her approval of the proposal and the budget.

“I think this whole thing is a really good idea,” Gayk said.“I really do.”

Included in the estimated budget is the cost of the investigators being called out, Heikenen said.

“What I have included in the cost of the staff would be for the medical investigators, not for the medical examiner or the deputy. But for the investigators, there would be a paid call of $25 per week. It’s not much, but something that acknowledges that you’re available. And then, $100 per case. Each case takes anywhere from two to 20 hours.”

Board Chairman Don Piche said the medical examiner’s staff will be covered by the county’s liability insurance.

“They fall under the same category as our building inspectors and stuff,” Piche said.

“I’m very pleased with how we came to this,” Heikenen said. “I think it’s a nice group effort. I can use the sheriff’s office space, and we can use (certain) equipment, and so I really think that we’ve done a good job in coordinating, keeping the costs down, and keeping it in Keweenaw County.”