By TAYLOR STUCK
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources predicting more than 1,000 people died in 2017 of drug overdoses, it’s no surprise the indigent burial fund ran out of money last year with four months left.
The burden to cover those funeral costs has fallen on generous funeral homes doing what they can to ensure every West Virginian has a dignified interment, and now they are working with the West Virginia Legislature to stretch the burial funds further.
House Bill 4024 would reduce the amount DHHR may pay for cremation or burial from $1,250 to $1,000. Fred Kitchen, funeral director of Henson & Kitchen Mortuary in Barboursville and president of the West Virginia Funeral Directors Association, said the goal is to stretch the $2.2 million fund further by paying less.
Direct burial and cremation means there will be no services. Should the bill pass, the fund would only pay for removal of remains from place of death, casket or container, and either transportation to a West Virginia cemetery or cremation costs. The bill also mandates cremation, which is cheaper, be the preferred option unless there is a religious exception.
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