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Adams Co. residents speak out on indigent deaths

Wendy Smith addresses the Adams County Board at Tuesday night's meeting.

Residents turned out to Tuesday night’s Adams County Board meeting to discuss indigent deaths and their concerns about the county's current policy to pay for them.

Wendy Smith's ex-husband lost his battle with cancer in April.

She says she was told she had to pay $1000 for her late ex-husband's ashes and death certificate.

"And if I didn't pay for it at a certain time, I wouldn't be able to know where he would be located at because they would bury him," said Smith.

With the help of family and friends, Smith was able to come up with the money.

Indigent families can either pay a fee to have their loved ones' remains returned or sign a form to relinquish rights to those remains.

Ann Titus is Smith's friend. She expressed concern about Adams County's policy in front of the Adams County Board Tuesday night.

"We can't change what happened but there are some things that need to be done in terms of reparations," said Titus.

Adams County Coroner James Keller told a legislative and judicial committee last week that the county has seen a rise in expenses for indigent deaths. For example, Keller said he received more than 90 inquiries last year about families who did not have money to pay for funerals, burials or cremations.

The county ends up paying about $1000 on each indigent death. The state helps reimburse counties for those costs, but...

"The state of Illinois, while they say they have $1,000 or so to give for each indigent death and cremation, they're not making their payments," said Gary Farha, Adams County State’s Attorney.

Keller says he's witnessed people abusing the system by hiding insurance policies or withholding information about assets or family members.

But that information does little to appease Smith.

"I have a right to be seen. I have a right to be heard," Smith said.

Now, it's up to the Adams County Board to make any changes if needed.

"The public health and safety committee and the legislative and judicial committee (will) review the current policy and bring back a revised policy," said Les Post, Adams County Board Chair.

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