Heroin deaths jump from 6 to 75 in a decade at the Medical Examiner's Office

April 20, 2017 06:55 PM

We spent the day trying to dig up numbers to show you. Here are some that illustrates part of the heroin problem. 

Between January and June 2005, the Monroe County Medical Examiner's office had six cases of heroin overdose. Between January and June 2015, it had 41 cases. Between January and June 2016 the number went up to 75 -- from six to 75 in a decade. And based on the Monroe County budgets that we read from 2007 and 2017, the Medical Examiner's Office has virtually the same number of people working these cases.

So the question is with more cases and roughly the same amount of staff, is that affecting the amount of time it's taking to do the testing in the Medical Examiner's office to determine how people died? And is it affecting criminal investigations?

We asked to speak to the Medical Examiner Thursday but we were told she was busy doing autopsies.

Here are the numbers on autopsies:

According to the Monroe County Executive's Office, in 2005 there were 860 autopsies. Ten years later, more than 1,200.

So today we asked local police chiefs: Do you have to wait longer to get test results back for open cases?

Brockport Police Chief Dan Varrenti agreed to talk to us.

Chief Dan Varrenti, Brockport Police Department: When a person if found deceased of unknown causes and toxicology becomes the final say, if you will, you're definitely looking at six months out before you're going to get an analysis.
Brean: What do you think the solution is then?
Chief Dan Varrenti, Brockport Police Department: Hire more people.
Brean: Simple as that?
Chief Dan Varrenti, Brockport Police Department: Simple as that. You can only do so much with what you have. And in my opinion, a six month waiting period to determine why someone died is unacceptable.
Brean: Are you concerned that because the length of time it takes to get results back it's going to negatively affect cases you have?
Chief Dan Varrenti, Brockport Police Department: It certainly can.

On paper, there is roughly the same amount of staff for the Medical Examiner's office compared to ten years ago. But not every position is filled. For instance, the budget calls for three Associate Medical Examiners. Right now there's only one. We talked to the County Executive's office today. They promised that a second will be hired in June and a third will be hired next year.

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Berkeley Brean

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