By Max Hrenda
In light of an increase in the number of pauper burials in Carter County, county officials began exploring an option in the form of a Johnson City-based tissue donation bank known as Restore Life USA.
On Monday night, the county’s Health and Welfare Committee listened to a presentation from Restore Life USA President James Byrd about presenting poor, and willing, bereaved families with an option that could save them – and the county – a good deal of money.
“We’re what’s commonly called a ‘body donation program,’” Byrd said. “We’ve had a lot of successes in Sullivan County and Greene County.
“These are organizations that have approached us and asked to use our services to help similar situations you face in Carter County.”
Under current county policy, a pauper burial is awarded when the family has no assets to speak of (specifically a residence or vehicle) and cannot afford a traditional burial. Once the lack of assets has been confirmed by the county mayor’s office, one of the local funeral homes will proceed with a cremation and is then compensated by the county.
Based on an average of three pauper burials per year, at a cost of roughly $600 per burial, the county has budgeted a total of $1,800 to cover the cost of burying the county’s poor. For this fiscal year, however, there have been nine pauper burials, and they have exceeded the county’s budget by $3,600.
Though there has been some discussion of revising or eliminating the county’s policy, Byrd said that Restore Life USA could be presented as an option, rather than an alternative.
“That’s what Sullivan does,” Byrd said. “We don’t care whether it’s a pauper or indigent situation. We take anyone who wants to donate their body and fits our criteria.”