Overdoses force coroner to use funeral home to store bodies


The escalating number of overdose deaths in the Dayton area has forced the local coroner’s office to take drastic measures, including contracting with a local funeral home late last year to store bodies.

“So far, it’s happened only once, but we have plans in place if we need to outsource some storage again,” said Montgomery County Coroner Kent Harshbarger.

RELATED: Heroin fight strains addiction services

Contingency plans call for again enlisting the help of local funeral homes, and also storing bodies in refrigerated trailers at the coroner’s office downtown at 361 W. 3rd St. The coroner’s office has also reached out to local hospitals to use their storage facilities as a last resort.

“It’s just nonstop anymore. We’re seeing the same tragedy over and over again.”

RELATED: U.S. overdose deaths doubled from 1999; Ohio in Top 5

Harshbarger said as much as 65 percent of the approximately 10 bodies a day the coroner’s office is handling are suspected overdose deaths, which rose to a record 3,050 people in Ohio last year who died mainly from heroin overdoses. In Montgomery County, the number of accidental drug overdose deaths climbed from 127 in 2010 to 355 last year, based on preliminary figures.

The local coroner’s office handles bodies from approximately 30 counties, according to Harshbarger, who said his office has struggled to process bodies at the current intake rate before reaching its 42-body storage capacity.

“We’re struggling, but we are meeting the needs,” he said. “But we’re at a critical point. If this continues over time, we’ll have to investigate a new physical structure. That’s a big ask.”

RELATED: China shipments help fuel local drug trade

Harshbarger said the current facility was remodeled last year to add 12 new storage units in anticipation of the increased demand, but there is no room in the building to accommodate more storage without compromising office space and the autopsy lab.

Cramped quarters, in addition to the steady stream of bodies, are already having and impact on morale, he said: “There’s no decompression time, and that begins to weigh on people.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Springfield business to hire workers as hotel chain expands
Springfield business to hire workers as hotel chain expands

A Springfield call center for an international hotel chain will take part in two job fairs next week as the business ramps up for its upcoming busy season and continued growth. The Red Roof Inn is looking for about 15 hourly sales agents who will be based at the company’s contact center at 1650 Upper Valley Pike. Those hired would perform a variety...
New salon plans to open in Springfield in long-vacant store
New salon plans to open in Springfield in long-vacant store

A new hair salon that will aim to bring New York City flair to Springfield might be opening soon in a long-vacant store. Tom Thompson, a Springfield native hair-designer with 20-years experience in New York City, hopes to open a new salon at 109 E. College Ave. The Springfield Board of Zoning Appeals will meet Wednesday to discuss the business among...
Cold start to winter pushes local natural gas bills higher
Cold start to winter pushes local natural gas bills higher

The sustained cold is doing more than making us uncomfortable. It’s making energy more expensive. Natural gas provider Vectren is warning that bitter cold is leading to higher gas use — and that will mean more expensive bills. Natural gas delivery volume in its Ohio service territory since Dec. 15, 2017, is the second highest Vectren has...
Freight demand causing ‘perfect storm’ for local trucking industry
Freight demand causing ‘perfect storm’ for local trucking industry

A stronger economy has helped area shipping and logistics companies grow and increased freight prices and the number of orders for new trucks, a local business owner says. “Tonnage is up. And the amount of drivers is down,” Burch said last week in between meetings in Washington, D.C., where he was talking with other ATA leaders about infrastructure...
Need a job? Vets job fair will have dozens of employers
Need a job? Vets job fair will have dozens of employers

Dozens of employers will participate in a job fair geared to service members. The fifth annual “New Year, New Career,” is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at the Hope Hotel and Conference Center, 10823 Chidlaw Road near Gate 12A off Ohio 444 in Fairborn. MORE NEWS: Air Force Marathon newest challenge: Run three races for new medal...
More Stories