State to build new Medical Examiner’s Office in Oxford

Published 3:58 pm Friday, June 14, 2024

A third state medical examiner’s office serving all of north Mississippi will be built in Oxford.

During the 2024 Session of the Mississippi Legislature, lawmakers passed legislation allowing the Mississippi Department of Public Safety to purchase the former Rayner Eye Clinic in Oxford, located off Belk Boulevard, to establish a medical examiner’s office.

One medical examiner’s office is in Biloxi and one is in Pearl. There was no ME’s office in the northern part of the state. Cases have been piling up and, in some cases, families are waiting weeks and even months before being able to put their loved ones to rest or find out the cause of their deaths.

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The new office is expected to take a year to 18 months to open and a nationwide search is ongoing to hire a doctor to work in the new office, according to state officials.

“This will be a huge benefit to all coroners in north Mississippi and the families who have a death where an autopsy is needed,” said Lafayette County Coroner Glenn Coleman. “This doesn’t just affect Oxford and Lafayette County – it’s a huge benefit to everyone.”

While it could take the better part of two years before the office is fully functional, Coleman said it’s still a big step in the right direction.

“This is further along the road in this quest than we’ve ever been before,” he said.

Former Lafayette County coroner Rocky Kennedy is familiar with the long journey of getting a medical examiner’s office in Oxford. While serving as coroner for 12 years, he and other local officials attempted to work with the state to open one in the Lafayette County Business Complex when it was first being designed as well as in the old Baptist hospital, but neither plan worked out.

“It’s a big step and a big commitment from the state,” Kennedy said. “I think they were getting the calls from families who were waiting weeks for autopsies to come back who couldn’t memorialize their loved ones they wanted to. This eliminates that time delay for those families who are going through those hard times and that’s the most important factor.”