Snag in Sevier County man’s paperwork causes delay in cremation, closure

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A Sevier County widow says she’s been stuck in limbo since her husband’s death last month. She’s unable to make funeral arrangements because there’s a hold up in the paperwork needed for a cremation.

The Tennessee Health Department says it varies on how long it takes a family to receive a loved one’s death certificate. There’s currently a backlog in Sevier County when it comes to death certificates.

“I have this big empty hole in my life,” said Tammy Reed.

Herr husband Shannon Collins was diagnosed last September with lung and brain cancer. He fought hard with chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but the 53-year-old passed away on September 24 of this year.

Reed says her problem now is having to wait on his death certificate so he can be cremated.

“He is the love of my life and it’s just crushing,” she said.

She’s been filling out paperwork for days and making endless phone calls. Her funeral director and hospice care providers say it’s taking so long to get Collins cremated because records now need to be processed online. The Tennessee Health Department made the change in April of this year. Reed’s funeral director saying it’s causing delays.

“It’s heartbreaking to know that your loved one is laying there and not being taken care of,” she said.

Sevier County says there is a backlog in processing death certificates because the county medical examiner is having to fill out hard and electronic copies, which is slowing the approval process.

“Why have they not come forward and told us of their blotch in their system?” asked Reed.

Sevier County adds they’re currently training on the new web system, but say there was no delay in Collins’ case. They say the funeral home did not contact their medical examiner until Tuesday, October 3, asking for permission to cremate.

Reed’s funeral director, Jason Dickinson of Cremation and Funeral Services of Tennessee, says he didn’t ask until Tuesday because he didn’t have the signed death certificate, caused by kinks in the electronic upgrades.

“You can’t bring closure to anything because you’re still waiting,” added Reed.

Reed received a call Tuesday afternoon a call from Dickinson saying he’d gotten verbal approval from the Sevier County medical examiner that he could cremate Mr. Collins.

“It’s a start for a long healing process. I’m glad that he’ll be home,” said Reed.

The state’s health department says there are no delays with the new web system. They say if the certificate is filled out correctly, the turnaround time could be five hours. However, if something’s missing, there will be a delay as they work with funeral homes or physicians.

Representatives with the state add they’ve been working for months with funeral home associations, medical examiners, and hospitals addressing questions about the process and registration. They say they’re continuing training and support daily.

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