Pima County wants to handle all unattended deaths in Graham County

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald

Also pushes to renegotiate contracts with Gila, La Paz, Yuma, and Santa Cruz counties

By Jon Johnson


GRAHAM COUNTY – The Pima County Office of Medical Examiner handles autopsies for Graham County, but if the Pima County Board of Supervisors has its way, the office will handle all of Graham County’s unattended deaths.

Pima County also is attempting to renegotiate its contracts for medical examiner duties with Gila, La Paz, Yuma, and Santa Cruz counties. It is not requesting to renegotiate contracts with Greenlee County, which already sends all unattended deaths to Pima County, and Cochise County, which has a set fee of $400,000 annually.

Graham County contracts with local doctors to perform the duties as the local medical examiner and pays that position about $40,000 annually. Graham County Supervisor Danny Smith said the county is pleased with the job the local doctors provide and that this is just a money issue for Pima County.  

“The angle is purely budgetary for Pima County,” Smith said. “There is no problem with the services of (our local doctor.)”

The current contract with Pima County runs through the fiscal year and a new contract would begin in July. If Graham County accepts the new stipulations, instead of only sending deaths that need autopsies, every unattended death would have to be sent, which could increase the cost by $30,000 to $90,000 or more, depending on the amount of services required. The new contract with Pima County may also result in Graham County dropping its local contract for a Graham County Medical Examiner. 

“Our problem is that we have to have the available ability to send bodies for autopsies,” Smith said. 

Smith advised that the county is still negotiating with Pima County and that even if it has to send all unattended deaths the county may still keep its local medical examiner.