The Cook County Board of Commissioners approved a pilot program Wednesday in which the county medical examiner's office will offer grief counseling for families of homicide victims and in other selected death cases.
Under an agreement between the county and the University of Illinois-Chicago, a second-year graduate student from UIC's Jane Addams College of Social Work will be available to assist families who come to the medical examiner's office to identify remains. Visual identification of the deceased by families is only allowed in cases of homicide or unidentified remains.
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UIC will select the student to serve in the program, which will be supervised by Antonia Mayorga, executive assistant to Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cina.
The medical examiner's office has not previously offered grief counseling services, even on a limited basis as will be the case now.
Families will be counseled on the identification procedure, walked through documentation, and prepared for what they are about to see on the video monitor when identifying the remains of a loved one. Once identification is complete, families will be offered informational material and referral services if needed, and a follow-up phone call.
As part of the grief counseling initiative, a list of resources such as victim assistance and various survivor support programs regarding homicide, sudden infant death, suicide and general bereavement will be compiled and made available.
"It is my hope that we can help ease these families' burden in some small way by providing information that may be helpful to them immediately and in the weeks after the loss of their loved one," Mayorga said.