Coroner’s office: More pressure, little financial aid in heroin crisis

A rising number of overdose deaths are straining operations at the Butler County Coroner’s Office, and financial help is needed, an official with the office said.

Butler County Coroner Administrator Martin Schneider projects more than 200 people could die this year in Butler County from an overdose — with the majority related to opioids, heroin, fentanyl, or carfentanil.

Explore MORE: Overdose deaths strain space at Butler County morgue

The heroin epidemic has put more pressure on coroner’s offices, Schneider said, with very little financial help.

“One thing that seems that’s missing for offices like mine — there’s nothing for coroner’s offices and we’re impacted,” Schneider told Connie Laug, Southwest District Director for U.S. Sen. Rob Portman during an opioid grant workshop Wednesday at the Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services Board.

The office added a fourth investigator last year, and Schneider said toxicology report costs have doubled.

About two dozen agencies that support Butler County in combating the overdose epidemic attended Wednesday’s hour-long workshop outlining grant opportunities.

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They talked about what was working, such as the quick response team in Middletown, and what wasn’t working.

“You can’t arrest your way out of this problem,” said Hamilton Police Officer Brian Wynn, and it’s difficult to prosecute a dealer with an overdose death.

“As far as I’m concerned, you’re playing Russian roulette,” Wynn said. “And to try to prove someone is responsible for an overdose death, that’s an even more frustrating thing.”

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Middletown Division of Fire EMS coordinator David VonBargen said the quick response team, or QRT, is one of the best ways to treat addicts.

“It truly connects them to the right place,” he said.

A QRT consists of a police officer, medic and a case manager who connect with people who overdose to get them into a recovery program.

He said he knows funding is an issue to start a QRT, but calls that “somewhat of a weak answer.”

“If Middletown can do this, there’s not a reason anyone else can’t do this,” he said.

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Laug said this is the first time she’s aware of a comprehensive list of federal grant-funding opportunities targeted to fight the opioid epidemic.

“We’re trying to push as much as we can to get funds out to local communities,” she said.

Grant funding deadlines vary, but some of the first applications for federal grants historically start at the beginning of a calendar year.

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