JASPER, Ala. (WIAT) – Funeral homes and morgues throughout Alabama are overwhelmed and running out of space.
Walker County Coroner Joey Vick says it’s a combination of COVID deaths, as well as overdoses and fatal accidents in their area.
In order to ease the burden on funeral homes in the county, Vick said they have a mobile response unit, or morgue, that can hold up to 16 bodies inside. Vick said when morgues and funeral homes are crowded, it can slow down many services.
“It slows forensics down. It slows autopsies down. It slows tox reports down,” Vick said.
He hopes they don’t have to use it, but are prepared to. Vick says they are up 40 more deaths this time compared to 2020.
“Accidents are up. Drug overdoses are up. Corona deaths are up,” Vick said.
Mike Burke, owner of Collins-Burke Funeral Home in Jasper, said he’s never seen a year like this in his 51 years working in the funeral home industry.
“Hectic. Really, I’ve never seen it like this before,” Burke said.
Before the pandemic, he said they would usually average between 30-35 services a month.
“This month so far, we have done 49 funerals and we have ten more families to take care of. So, we’re looking at 59 right now,” he said.
Burke said they haven’t had a day off in three weeks.
“At some point, you gotta get away from the three to four funerals a day and do five or six to kind of take the burden off,” he said.
But through the trying times and extra workload, Burke said families have been understanding how overwhelmed they are.
“Because we could not do a funeral when they wanted it. They’ve been real good and I appreciate that,” he said.
They want to provide the best services they can to the people of Walker County.
“I don’t know if I would seek another term, but because it is, I’m committed,” Vick said.
Vick said they are in discussions about a county morgue as well, which could be ready by the beginning of 2022.