FOX 45 goes inside the coroner's cooler as opioid deaths continue to rise

FOX 45 goes inside the coroner's cooler as opioid deaths continue to rise (WKEF/WRGT)

DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT)- FOX 45's Rhonda Moore got a rare glimpse inside the coroner's office as Montgomery County continues to see overwhelming number of opioid related deaths.

The coroner opened the doors Thursday to take our cameras where bodies are stored.

He said on average, he's seeing about two overdose deaths a day, and that the county is on track for a record number of overdoses.

More people may be paying attention to the crisis, according to Montgomery Country Coroner Kent Harshbarger, it doesn't appear it's making much of a difference.

He hopes by showing inside the cooler, that might change

"I never had done it until May of this year," Hashbarger saidm "and I really only did it because of the opioid crisis and just trying to tell the story.:"

The story is the record number of opioid related deaths in Montgomery County in 2017.

"We're estimating right now we're over 440 overdose deaths for the year," he said. :Our total last year was something like 343 and we passed that at the end of May."

He estimates there will be 800 deaths in Montgomery County by the end of the year, and said his office is overwhelmed.

"We're running out of resources both with personnel and financial, our budget is strapped, had to hire part time folks to help with the workload," said Harshbarger.

There's room for 40 bodies here in the cooler.

"Usually in 24, 48 hours we fill up," he said. "Just fortunately haven't had the death calls in the last day."

Toward the end of 2016, there were so many deaths, a trailer was used for some of the bodies. Harshbarger made some changes to prepare for that potential reality.

"This space was remolded end of last year to add 12 more spaces which has helped," he said. "We don't offer storage anymore to funeral homes. We used to store bodies but we don't do that anymore, 'cause we just don't have the space."

Harshbarger said most of the deaths involve different types of fentanyl.

"Our cases are running 60 to 70 percent overdoses, of that over 90 percent have fentanyl or a fentanyl analog in them," he said. "Heroin is actually rare in our cases now, and they've started combining methamphetaimine and cocaine in with the fentanyl."

"Most of our cases from this opioid crisis are white men," he added. "White women are right behind them. The majority of our cases are middle age."

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