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Delaware County Indiana morgue

The opioid crisis is taking a toll on morgues



A record number of Americans died of a drug overdose in 2016, and it’s taking a toll on the country’s morgues.

Scott Hahn is the county coroner for Delaware County, Indiana, and he said 2017 was the morgue’s busiest year on record, putting a strain resources.

“It’s been a problem with money. I had to go back to our county council and request for funds to do autopsies," he said.

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Hahn said the state has taken over some of the autopsy's costs if the death is suspected to be a drug overdose. In 2017, Indiana spent over $100 million in state and federal funds fighting the crisis.

It's estimated that the United States as a whole spent $115 billion toward the epidemic in 2017, according to health research nonprofit Altarum.

The county coroner’s office is also a part-time job, Hahn said, and the increase in activity has required more time from employees.

“Not only on the dollars and cents side of it, it also affects us on man hours. You know, people being on call, having to go out to these scenes, having to investigate each one of these. It takes a toll,” Hahn said.

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In the last few years, the growing number of victims has been significant in the community. Since 2015, the number of fatal drug overdoses in Delaware County increased by almost 44 percent.

“We used to have so much of our efforts concentrated on meth and meth labs in particular, that heroin came in and opioids came in kind of at the tail of that. And a lot of our efforts in discovering meth labs and dealing with meth have just gone by the wayside because it isn’t killing people like opioids and heroin," said Delaware County, Indiana county prosecutor Jeff Arnold.

Opioids were a large contributor to the increase in fatal overdoses in the county, especially Fentanyl. In 2015, there were only 5 cases of drug overdoses involving Fentanyl in Delaware County, but by 2017 the number had jumped to 25.

“Heroin, once it started getting cut with Fentanyl and carfentanil, people started dying, and rapidly,” Arnold said.

In 2016, almost 64,000 Americans died of a drug overdose, an over 21 percent increase from 2015, and over two-thirds of the country’s fatal drug overdoses involved opioids.

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And Hahn, who is also a firefighter and emergency medical technician in Delaware County, hopes something changes soon so less people end up on his table.

“When you look at the medical side or the firefighting or EMS side, there is always that chance of saving somebody or somebody getting help, and I think that’s the key,” Hahn said. “The coroner side of it, it’s a final it’s just an end to that chapter of somebody’s life that addiction has taken them," said Hahn, Delaware County, Indiana county coroner.”

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