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Families experiencing delays in receiving death certificates

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 10:54 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - More than one viewer came to us with questions about a delay in receiving their loved one’s death certificates. We spoke with those who are on the waiting end of the issue.

“I have cried more in the last two months than I have my whole life,” said Rick Gibson.

It’s that ever-present grief that’s compounded with frustration for Gibson. His wife Linda died of COVID-19 on August 26.

But he’s still waiting on her death certificate.

“That piece of paper is very important, because you get to a point where you cannot proceed a step farther” described Gibson. “No matter how hard you try, or what you want to do, you have to have that piece of paper to do anything.”

Credit card companies and the life insurance company are also waiting. Gibson can’t get any of his wife’s affairs in order without that certificate.

“Every day that goes on, you’re ripping that scab off, and it’s still raw, and it hurts to deal with this anyway,” he said. “So, you want to get it over with. You want to get it done, get it behind you.”

Gibson says he tried calling the Office of Vital Records but couldn’t get information because he wasn’t the one who placed the order. The funeral home did. That’s common-place for funeral homes to offer that service.

People’s Funeral Home in Jackson says they’re experiencing the same kind of waiting game.

“I have one case in particular, a case where I made the funeral arrangements in the offices over a month ago,” said People’s Funeral Home Vice President James Stewart. “And the audit death certificate, we’re still waiting on.”

James Stewart says he’s attempted using the online system and the expedited ordering process but still... it’s taking awhile. And since they’re the last point of contact for families, they return to them with questions.

“They call me and I have to say... I’m sorry. I don’t have that hadn’t arrived yet,” said Stewart. “I don’t know what is the root of the problem. But there is a problem.”

We took these concerns to the Department of Health. Here’s what they said.

“According to our Vital Records Office, it is current on completed certificates received. The delay inquirers may be experiencing could be with the investigation for final cause of death, toxicology report, autopsy report, amendment to a death certificate, verification of identifying information, or COVID-related investigation. Those delays are not under the purview of Vital Records. Delays related to USPS delivery are also a potential cause.” - MSDH Spokesperson Liz Sharlot.

We will continue checking with other state agencies and office that may be a part of these delays.

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