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State cuts imperil traditional funerals for poor

A long-time Evanston funeral director told city officials this week that state budget cuts are making it impossible to provide traditional funeral services for the poor.


A long-time Evanston funeral director told city officials this week that state budget cuts are making it impossible to provide traditional funeral services for the poor.

Nathan Haliburton, who runs Haliburton Funeral Chapel at 1317 Emerson St., says the state legislature has cut funding to the Department of Human Services in half — leaving $12.6 million less to provide for families who rely on public aid for funerals and burials.

Even before the recent cuts the program didn’t fully cover costs, Haliburton said, providing a maximum of about $1,133 for the funeral and $600 toward a cemetery plot, when cemeteries in the area charge at least four times that amount for a plot.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said the cutbacks could affect as many as two dozen Evanston families this year.

Alternatives available

Haliburton noted that one less-expensive alternative available to families is to have the remains of the deceased cremated — a service that public aid payments will cover — although those payments are also caught in the budget squeeze.

In addition families could consider an anatomical gift.

The Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois operates a program that accepts bodies for use in training students at all the state’s medical schools.

The nonprofit transports donated bodies to medical schools, where medical students dissect and study them. Then, the association cremates the bodies and sends them back to the families.

The only cost to the family is for transportation of the body to the association. In Cook County that cost typically is about $700.

And medical schools are in need of more cadavers, AGAI Executive Director Paul Dudek says.

“We receive about 450 donations a year,” he said. “I could easily place 600 a year.”

Other organizations also accept anatomical donations of bodies for research purposes.

If no other alternative is chosen, Haliburton said, the body may end up being left at the county morgue, where the county eventually will end up paying for the burial of the deceased in a mass grave at the Chicago City Cemetery.

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