It’s difficult to imagine how routine it has become for Ohio coroners and medical examiners to perform autopsies on people who have died due to suspected drug overdoses. The number of drug overdose deaths in Montgomery County, Ohio has pushed the coroner there to consider renting space at funeral homes.
Despite an expansion in 2016, adding 12 more refrigerated spaces in the Montgomery County, Ohio coroner’s office, due then to the marked increase of drug overdose deaths over that seen in 2015, Dr. Kent Harshbarger, the county’s coroner, the facilities are not large enough to receive and store all the bodies that come their way.
Already in 2017, the Montgomery County coroner’s office has processed 145 cases in January where the cause of death was related to opioid use, encompassing 60 percent of all the autopsies performed there. In the first two days of February 2017, 18 of the 25 cases sent for autopsy have been as a result of drug overdoses. Kenneth M. Betz, director of the coroner’s office, explained that the influx of cases has been so great that his office had to ask a local funeral home to store four bodies until there was room at the morgue, something that had never had to be done previously.
In a phone interview, Betz said, “We’re running at full capacity. We’ve never experienced this volume of accidental drug overdoses in our history. We now call funeral homes immediately” to see if there is available space.
Harshbarger state that the county is considering renting space from local funeral homes to ensure Montgomery County has enough room to store the bodies it is sent to examine for autopsy.
In comparison, Montgomery County experienced 259 drug overdose deaths in all of 2015. In 2016, that number had been reached by the end of September. In 2017, 163 deaths have already been attributed to drug overdoses by February 2, the majority of which are opioid overdoses.
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