Heroin's bleak barometer: Northeast Ohio plague keeps coroners' offices busy all the time

Posted at 5:02 PM, Mar 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-31 17:10:41-04

Coroners' offices offer a bleak barometer for the heroin problem snowballing here in our home state.

Coroners and medical examiners are overwhelmed, and many are over budget, as more and more people succumb to addiction.

Stark County

The drug epidemic is increasing the caseload in Stark County. Cases related to drugs now represent about 20% of their work.

Investigator Rick Walters told News 5 the drugs are typically mixed and cut with so many additivies, the toxicology reports are getting more difficult and more time consuming. 

"We're finding mixes in our toxicologies and that's what's raising the fees of this business so high," he said. 

Costs in the coroner's office and crime lab have increased more than 30 percent. 

In Stark County, there are hopes an upcoming levy will pass and help cover the continued uptick, because they have to keep up. 

"We don't have a choice. It's up to us to determine cause and manner of death. It's what we do," Walters said.

Other counties feel the pinch

In Cuyahoga County cases are going up and so are costs. The county added $142,000 dollars to the budget in 2016 just to transport bodies. 

Overdoses have doubled in Lorain County, where the coroner's office has already added $70,000 to the budget this year. 

The coroner's office in Summit County told News 5 they're seeing similar increases. And, they're dealing with more cases, with the same personnel. 

"A lot of people don't realize how it's affecting them in the price of everything going up around them," Investigator Walters said. 

RELATED: County health rankings for 2017 show mixed results for Northeast Ohio