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Strengthening the Medical Examiner-Coroner System Grant Program


In fiscal 2020, all state and local forensic capacity enhancement programs previously administered by NIJ, including this program, moved to the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). See "Forensic Science Programs" from BJA.

Through this program, NIJ seeks proposals to strengthen the medical examiner/coroner (ME/C) system in the United States. 

The National Science and Technology Council’s Fast-Track Action Committee on Strengthening the Medicolegal-Death-Investigation System’s report, entitled Strengthening the Medicolegal-Death-Investigation System: Improving Data Systems notes that death investigations performed by ME/C offices are vital to criminal justice by investigating violent deaths.  Of the estimated 2.6 million annual deaths, ME/C offices investigate nearly 500,000 cases in approximately 2,400 jurisdictions.

But the ME/C community faces a number of challenges —

  • The ME/C community lacks adequate personnel and resources to address the country’s medicolegal death investigation needs.[1]
  • There are systemic issues with death investigation data quality and infrastructure, inadequate facilities, and inconsistent expertise levels.[2]
  • There is a broad call for the accreditation of ME/C offices and certification of medicolegal death investigators  throughout the US in support of ensured quality, competency, and adequate staffing.[3]

These challenges are echoed in other reports such as ‘Strengthening the Medical Examiner– Coroner System Through NIJ-funded Programs: 2018 Medicolegal Death Investigation Stakeholders’ Meeting’, which asserts a need to address deficient facilities, equipment, staffing, education, and training for medicolegal death investigators.[4]

NIJ’s ‘Strengthening the Medical Examiner-Coroner System’ is a competitive program designed to increase the supply of qualified forensic pathologists and to strengthen the quality and consistency of ME/C services nationwide. NIJ seeks proposals in two purpose areas:

  • Purpose Area 1: Forensic Pathology Fellowships.
  • Purpose Area 2: Medical Examiner-Coroner Office Accreditation.

When applying for funding under this program, review carefully the full text of the solicitation. When the solicitation is open, it will be listed on NIJ's Current Funding page.

As the specific requirements and goals of the program may change from year to year, any review of past solicitations should be for general information only.

The table below shows the total number and value of awards by fiscal year. Select any fiscal year to find information on that year's program and a list of the awards.

Funding by Fiscal Year
Fiscal Year Total No. Awards Total Award Value
2019 15 $1,831,423
2018 14 $2,482,771
2017 14 $2,332,080
Totals 43 $6,646,774

[note 1],[note 2] White House National Science and Technology Council, Strengthening the Medicolegal Death Investigation System: Improving Data Systems (pdf, 16 pages) September 2016.

[note 3] White House National Science and Technology Council, Strengthening the Medicolegal Death Investigation System: Accreditation and Certification, A Path Forward (pdf, 12 pages), December 2016.

[note 4] U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences. Strengthening Forensic Science Services through the DNA Capacity Enhancement & Backlog Reduction Program and Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants, Final Report (pdf, 21 pages). Washington, DC: NIJ Forensic Technology Center of Excellence, 2018.

Date Created: September 27, 2019