Polis signs legislation to better regulate Colorado's funeral home industry

Under the new laws, funeral industry professionals must be licensed to practice and facilities must undergo routine inspections.
Funeral Home Regulations
Funeral Home Regulations
Posted at 7:53 PM, May 24, 2024

DENVER — Governor Jared Polis on Friday signed a package of bills into law that strengthens regulations of Colorado's funeral home industry.

Senate Bill 24-173 requires funeral home directors, embalmers, and other industry professionals to be licensed in order to practice in Colorado.

Funeral home directors must graduate from an approved mortuary science school, pass the arts section of the national board exam and serve an apprenticeship for one year or longer. A mortuary science practitioner must graduate from an approved mortuary science school, pass both the arts and science sections of the national board exam and have a year or longer apprenticeship. Those same rules apply to an embalmer, with the addition of successfully passing the science section of the national board examination, according to the bill.

People who perform cremations or natural reductions must gain certification from the Cremation Association of North America, the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, or a successor organization.

More than four decades ago, the licensing process for providers in the state ended. The tipping point for change came after 190 remains were found improperly stored at the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, Colorado.

People currently in the funeral business can apply for a provisional license that includes requirements like 4,000 hours of work experience, working in the field for at least one year, a fingerprint background check and more. A provisional license expires after three years unless there is intervention or extension granted. A person could also go for their full license.

The director of the division of professions and occupations will make sure these rules are enforced. Additionally, the director will have the power to discipline license holders, including suspending a license and more.

Polis signs legislation to better regulate Colorado's funeral home industry

The governor on Friday also signed House Bill 24-1335 into law, which requires funeral homes and crematories to be inspected on a routine basis, including outside business hours. He also signed House Bill 24-1254, which expands regulations on non-transplant tissue banks. It requires them to keep certain records and bans them from buying human remains.

State Rep. Brianna Titone sponsored SB24-173 and HB24-1135. She said stories in recent years about the failures of Colorado’s funeral home industry touched her heart.

“There's a special place in hell for people like this who do this kind of stuff,” said Titone. “People don't deserve this kind of thing. They're trusting these people to do this work, and it's just horrible.”

Titone said there’s still more work to do and said it will take a few years for the bills to be fully implemented. But said this legislative package is a big step forward.

"We have a framework to make sure we can hold people accountable," said Titone. "We can make sure that people who are not doing or do not want to do the right thing will be out of the business here in Colorado."

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