Medical examiner

Pinal County’s Chief Medical Examiner John Hu. The Gila County Board of Supervisors voted to use the services of Pinal’s medical examiner department.

GLOBE — Gila and Pinal counties are partnering once again to save taxpayer money.

A few years ago the two contracted for Pinal to provide juvenile detention services for Gila County. The change was estimated to save $300,000 a year, according to Steve Lessard, Gila County chief probation officer, back in 2017 when the supervisors approved the program.

At its April 21 meeting, the Gila County Board of Supervisors was asked to approve another agreement with Pinal County. This one would allow Pinal to provide medical examiner services for Gila. The county estimates savings to be $70,000 a year, according to Mary Springer, director of the county finance department, who brought the issue to the board.

She explained the county uses a contract medical examiner that performs autopsy services and related medical services.

“In addition to paying a contract medical examiner, additional costs include separate medical supplies, pathology testing, facility costs, equipment and so on. Gila County also uses the Pima County medical examiner when the contract medical examiner is not available or there is a complicated case that requires more services than the contract medical examiner can perform,” Springer said.

Pima County recently notified Gila County it would no longer take cases on a piecemeal basis.

“Since we were notified by Pima County, the Finance Department has been researching medical examiner service providers with an all-inclusive cost model. Pinal County has a full service medical examiner department that has provided competitive pricing, inclusive of all costs and logistically closer to Gila County,” Springer said.

After review of the cost models, it was determined that the Pinal County cost model would be the most beneficial to Gila County.

The agreement is from July 1 through June 30, 2021, with an annual payment of $375,000. The amount will cover the costs of up to 190 medical examiner cases per year. For any cases in excess of 190 during any one-year term of the agreement, Gila County will pay the per case rates of: death certificate, $147; external examination, $1,166; standard autopsy, $2,192; extended autopsy, $3,393. Trial testimony, if needed, is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Contact the reporter at