Montgomery Co. Coroner's Office running out of space for bodies because of overdoses

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    DAYTON (WRGT)-- Montgomery County Coroner Dr. Kent Harshbarger says his office just cannot keep up with the number of bodies coming in.

    “For the month of January, our case totals have completely gone out of control for us as far as our ability to handle this kind of workload and it’s really been from overdoses," said Dr. Harshbarger. "There's no end in sight. The rate we're going we're now at 75% of our case load is overdoses.”

    The coroner's office estimates 355 overdose deaths last year. That's up from 259 in 2015.

    “At that autopsy rate, remains are coming and going all the time through the cooler and there’s no space. We’re looking at renting other space in the community that has refrigeration capabilities. We do have mass disaster supplies so we have cooling trailers we can break out but we prefer not to have to do that. Personnel, our equipment for instant toxicology is maxed out. Our report dates are getting longer and longer because we just can’t keep up. There’s so much coming in the door we can’t get the reports out the other end. So it’s not only space to process, it’s people to process,” said Dr. Harshbarger.

    What's disturbing to the coroner is the availability of Naloxone, an opioid antidote that can stop an overdose in its tracks.

    "Either the use rate has gone through the roof or the product, the Narcan isn't able to keep up with the strength of the chemical it's trying to prevent. So even though it's more available it's not available enough," said Dr. Harshbarger.

    The problem is it's not just heroin. We've been telling you about fentanyl and carfentinil which are much more deadly than heroin.

    "Whether it's the Narcan not affecting or that (the drugs) are just so powerful of a product people are using and dying is most likely the issue. We are detecting more Fentanyl analogs than before," said Dr. Harshbarger.

    They average 150 autopsies a month, they've done 230 this month.

    “The testing could be done in days but it’s batched so there’s only so many spots in the machine to run and the machine can only run so many times a week by personnel. So with unlimited resources I could have them out in a week but with the resources we have it takes us about 8-9 weeks to prove it,” said Dr. Harshbarger.

    The coroner's office will blow past last year's record in five months if the current pace keeps up but the coroner knows it could be even worse.

    "It's astonishing how many people are saved without repeated use from their police department. That would've absolutely overwhelmed us last year and perhaps even the year before if Narcan wasn't available to the E.M.S., police and first responders "

    Dr. Harshbarger says this is a crisis. If you know someone struggling do whatever you can to get them help before they become the next statistic. Click here to learn how to help.

    "Families I think maintain hope as you would with your family. The users, I think many of them believe today's the day or tomorrow's the day," said Dr. Harshbarger.

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