Construction for a new facility for the First Judicial Circuit Medical Examiner is planned at the Northwest Florida Industrial Park @ I-10 on Hwy. 87 S in East Milton.
Interim Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Deanna Oleski on Tuesday discussed the project with Santa Rosa County Commissioners during the board’s first 2021-2022 fiscal year budget workshop.
District 1 Commissioner Sam Parker, who served on the search committee to hire a new medical examiner, said building a new facility was part of the deal. “That was a commitment that was offered before she was awarded the job,” Parker said.
Former Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Andrea Minyard resigned from the job, citing problems the office faces with understaffing and an inadequate, overcrowded facility.
Parker said finding her replacement was a challenge that took one year.
The Medical Examiner’s office serves the four westernmost counties in Florida, including Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton.
Oleski told commissioners her agency is understaffed with just 19 full-time employees serving the district. She said the typical staffing would be twice that. Therefore, she’s requesting 7 additional full-time employees.
Currently the district utilizes a morgue at Sacred Heart Hospital but the State of Florida’s budget includes $250,000 for the new East Milton facility, which Oleski said would be a convenient location.
Oleski went on to tell the board that the district has seen a significant rise in the illicit use of Fentanyl.
“We have a pretty dire drug problem,” she said, pointing out it is more common than alcohol with car accidents and drug overdoses. “It’s also making its way into meth.”