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What changes should be made in the funeral home industry? A new report has 11 recommendations

Posted at 8:03 AM, Oct 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-19 10:03:48-04

FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. — Nearly two weeks ago, law enforcement in Fremont County began an investigation into more than 115 improperly stored bodies inside a funeral home in Penrose.

This week, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said through their investigation, they have removed 189 bodies from the Return To Nature Funeral Home.

People working for funeral homes in Colorado are not required to have a license. On Friday, The Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) released more than 20 reviews in the 2023 sunset reviews. The review researches current regulations.

According to DORA, the General Assembly orders these reviews, and all reviews are sent to the General Assembly. One of the reviews released on Friday was the Portions of the Mortuary Science Code, which looks at the funeral home and cremation industry. The new report from the state is recommending changes to current industry regulations.

The Funeral Homes and Crematories Sunset Review provides over 50 pages of information regarding Colorado funeral homes. The Colorado Office of Policy, Research & Regulatory Reform (COPRRR), through DORA, started work on the sunset review in 2022. Now they have 11 recommendations for the funeral home industry.

The first recommendation suggests continuing to require funeral homes to register with the state every November. Many of the other recommendations address funeral home inspections.

Prior to 2022, the state needed permission from funeral homes to inspect them. A bill that passed this spring now authorizes the state to conduct unannounced inspections.

Another recommendation proposed would allow the state to conduct inspections on a routine periodic basis. The report refers to the recent investigation into the Return To Nature Funeral Home in Fremont County.

The report states the following:

Routine, periodic inspections could help to motivate registrants to consistently comply with the Code, thereby reducing the likelihood of such events occurring again and increasing the likelihood of earlier discovery of them.

The recommendations also suggest the state should be able to inspect funeral homes even after they go out of business to make sure human remains are disposed properly. The Return To Nature's Funeral Home registration expired in November 2022.

Another recommendation said the state should continue to have title protections for positions at funeral homes.

According to the sunset report, “To lawfully use the title 'funeral director,' an individual must have at least 2,000 hours practicing as a funeral director and have directed at least 50 funerals or graveside.”

A license or a degree in mortuary science is not a requirement in the state of Colorado.

COPRRR within DORA is currently conducting another report to determine if funeral home professionals should be required to have a license. The sunrise report will be released on December 31th, 2023.

All of the sunrise reports have been given to state lawmakers. It is up to them if they want to pursue legislation on information provided in the sunset reports.