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Colorado lawmakers announce bill to license morticians, funeral service providers

Colorado Funeral Home Regulation
Posted at 7:51 AM, Mar 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-05 09:51:42-05

DENVER — Following disturbing headlines in recent years for improper care of human remains by several funeral service providers in Colorado, lawmakers are stepping in to increase regulation in the industry.

A bipartisan bill announced by legislators Monday would reestablish a licensing process for those who operate funeral services, decades after Colorado let its process lapse.

“We are here today to declare that enough is enough in Colorado,” said State Senator Dylan Roberts, a Democrat from Colorado’s Eighth Senate District. “Too many Colorado families have had to face the gruesome and unacceptable reality that their loved one’s remains have been mishandled, lost, improperly cared for, sold, and completely disrespected by bad actors in our state.”

colorado state capitol rotunda

Politics

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Colette Bordelon
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The bill would create a licensing process for morticians and funeral service providers, requiring applicants to graduate from an accredited institution for mortuary services, complete a background check and spend at least one year in an apprenticeship in the field. The hope is this licensing will give grieving family members the tools and protection they need to choose a responsible and thoughtful service.

More than four decades ago, Colorado’s licensing process for providers ended, and we became the only state in the country to not license the operators of funeral homes. Both lawmakers and victims said this has made it too difficult to know which owners are trustworthy.

“We are literally the only state out of 50 states that doesn’t do this, and we don’t see the types of tragedies like this in other states,” Roberts said.

The bill comes after a funeral home in southern Colorado was accused of improperly storing nearly 200 bodies. Investigators made the “horrific” discovery in October 2023 after neighbors near the Return to Nature funeral home in Penrose, Colorado, reported a foul odor.

Return to Nature Funeral Home

Local News

Colorado lawmakers vote to introduce bill to regulate funeral homes

Jesse Bedayn, Associated Press/Report for America
4:06 PM, Feb 21, 2024

During a press conference announcing the bill Monday, several victims spoke about their tragic experiences of falling victim to irresponsible and fraudulent funeral services. George Rosales, who lost his wife to Alzheimer’s in 2022, was horrified to learn earlier this year that his wife’s remains were found among at least 30 others during the eviction of a former funeral home owner in Denver. Rosales had spread ashes he believed to be his wife’s across the state.

“To relive someone’s death is one of the hardest things to do because you’re already [processed] their death,” Rosales said.

Rosales feels he’s had to grieve his wife’s passing twice after learning he had not received her ashes in 2022. He wants to make sure other families don’t have to experience the same pain, and he feels this bill is a good start.

“We need to change these laws and get this moving forward, and get these regulations on the funeral homes so that this doesn’t happen to anybody else,” Rosales told Denver7. “We’ve to make them more accountable.”

If passed, the bill — which has not yet been introduced as of publication — would enact the licensing requirements beginning in 2026. A second bill set to be introduced would require regular inspections of funeral homes, lawmakers said.