Cuyahoga County Heroin Overdose Crisis Threatening Medical Examiner's Office Accreditation, Budget

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The heroin crisis has become so monumental in Cuyahoga County that the medical examiner's office could lose accreditation with a national organization. Pathologists' workloads have simply become too burdensome, and The National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) has threatened penalties.

The office requested an additional $200,000 from Cuyahoga County; council will vote on the budget move this afternoon. The funds will allow the medical examiner's office to arrange contracts with pathologists and a toxicologist, and to reconfigure a DNA technician position.

NAME recommends that pathologists conduct no more than 250 autopsies per year. In 2016, three forensic pathologists in Cuyahoga County conducted more than 325 autopsies each — the threshold for penalties.

The toxicology lab has also exceeded a 90-day turnaround limit on lab results.

The ballooning workload is entirely attributed to the local heroin overdose crisis. Last year, the county saw more than 600 overdose deaths (from heroin and other various opioids). By all accounts, that number will almost certainly increase this year.

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