Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Albuquerque Journal 

OMI notification system in need of revamping


July 11, 2018

A year ago, the state Office of the Medical Investigator issued an apology for waiting five months to notify family members that their loved one had died.

“The OMI system failed,” the agency acknowledged at the time.

Sadly, that wasn’t an isolated incident, as evidenced by the case of a man who had been dead for 10 months before his parents were given the news.

“They have a process that I think is badly broken,” Roger Hartman, the deceased man’s father, told the Albuquerque Journal.

But it doesn’t have to be.

While OMI tried in vain to find Scott Hartman’s next of kin for the better part of a year, a Bernalillo County investigator who inherited the case from the agency was able to track them down after only about one month.

OMI hands cases off to the county’s Unclaimed/Indigent Cremation Program when it is unable to locate next of kin. OMI has 11 investigators who juggle looking for next of kin with responding to death scenes. By contrast, the county unit has one full-time investigator handling searches, with a supervisor helping as needed.

There’s also the case of the man who committed suicide but whose family didn’t learn about his death for two months.

Yes, family members should file missing persons reports and check with OMI when they fear the worst — which the Hartmans did not do, even though they returned to their son’s old haunts and checked court records. And yes, there are increased challenges when so many of these cases involve people who live on the edge and drop in and out of their loved ones’ lives.

But OMI should take the above cases as a wake-up call and revamp its practices so no families are unnecessarily left in limbo when a loved one is lying inside one of OMI’s cold freezers. Because every family deserves answers and closure, regardless of their loved one’s lifestyle.

— Albuquerque Journal


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