State will continue to license funeral homes despite cost cutting measures
Published 4:30 pm, Saturday, August 6, 2011
The state Department of Public Health said it will continue to license funeral homes, funeral directors and embalmers, "clarifying" a statement earlier this week that confused many in the funeral industry.
On Monday, the DPH announced that as part of an effort to save $20 million over the next two years, the agency will no longer license hundreds of funeral homes, funeral directors and embalmers. Friday, the DPH issued a release saying that while it is "streamlining processes and reallocating resources in response to budget cuts, it has no plans to stop licensing and inspecting funeral homes, funeral directors, or embalmers."
The statement issued earlier in the week left many in the funeral industry confused, leading members of the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association Inc. to meet with DPH staff and leadership of the state Legislature's Public Health Committee.
"We are gratified to see a retraction from Commissioner Dr. Jewell Mullen to the August 1 announcement that funeral homes and funeral directors will no longer be licensed," the association said in a release.
"This decision is in the best interest of funeral directors statewide and the families we serve. The DPH has assured our association that if they ever decide to go forward with any proposal in this area, they will first meet with the CFDA."
Nicole I. Granados, a Windsor funeral director who is president of the 220-member CFDA, said the group requested the meeting because so many members were confused about the DPH plans.
Matthew Adzima, secretary and treasurer on the Adzima Funeral Home on Stratford's Paradise Green, said he didn't understand the savings that the department said would come from streamlining licensing processes.
The state collects license fees from both embalmers and the funeral homes. There are about 310 licensed funeral homes in Connecticut.
"I don't know where the savings will come from," he said.
"You don't expect the department to dump it out there without discussing it with the funeral industry,'' he said. "It seems like really poor management. It's just gobbledygook."
Slocum, the co-author of the recently published "Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death," published by Upper Access, said that the DPH seemed to be trying to change state law without the action of the General Assembly. State statutes give the regulatory power over the industry to the Funeral and Embalmer Examining Board, Slocum stressed.
Currently, the DPH has one inspector who looks into the industry on a business-by-business basis, reviewing operations, the general price list and inspecting facilities. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission shares regulatory authority over funeral homes.
Frank Dorman, public affairs specialist for the Federal Trade Commission, which annually sends undercover investigators into funeral homes, said Friday the agency does not track what individual states do in the way of regulating the industry.
"The FTC enforces funeral rules that fall under its responsibility to uncover unfair or deceptive business practices," Dorman said. "You should be shown a price list before you start talking and we use undercover inspections every year to make sure funeral homes are complying with the rules."
Consumers have the right to choose funeral goods and services, which must be stated in writing on a price list. If state or local laws require items, the provider must also put it on its price list, referring to specific law.
Funeral directors cannot refuse or charge a fee to handle caskets bought elsewhere. And providers that offer cremations have to make available alternative containers for the ashes. Fines can reach $16,000 per violation.
The FTC recently reported that in the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut last year, inspectors found that 6 of 25 funeral homes had "significant" violations.
Staff Writer John Burgeson contributed to this report.