Ohio coroner rents refrigerator trailers to store bodies amid rising rates of opioid deaths

After taking in more than a dozen bodies Monday, the Montgomery County coroner's office in downtown Dayton, Ohio, ran out of space for the second time this year, according to a Tribune Review report.

 

Earlier this year, an influx of bodies forced Kent Harshbarger, MD, the county's coroner, to send some of the corpses to a funeral home. The overflow has persisted even after the office expanded capacity last year to hold 42 bodies instead of 36. Dr. Harshbarger now rents refrigerated trailers to hold the extra bodies after overdose spikes.

"We're full every night," said Dr. Harshbarger, according to the Tribune Review. "If this pace continues, I'm not really sure what we're going to do ... We had 13 [bodies] yesterday, and 12 of them were overdoses."

The primary driver in the increase in deaths from drug overdoses are synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin, according to the report.

"I'm looking at 2,900 autopsies, 2,000 of them overdoses," said Dr. Harshbarger, according to the report. "I can't operate at that capacity."

In 2016, the office conducted fewer than 2,000 autopsies for drug overdose victims for the entire year.

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