Opioid overdoses overwhelms M.E.'s office, fellowship formed to help

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Monroe County, N.Y. – For the last several years, the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office has had a hard time keeping up with the work load that comes in from the 13 counties they serve.

The increase in overdose deaths from opioids is part of what’s causing this problem, coupled with the decrease in people becoming forensic pathologists.

On Thursday, the county and the University of Rochester announced a new program to help tackle this problem.

In 2019, the University of Rochester will offer a fellowship with the Medical Examiner’s Office. This will give a resident real world experience while allowing them to help with the increase in cases at the M.E.’s office.

We're going to have a continuous hopefully supply of medical examiners, not just in Monroe County but to help solve this crisis throughout the country,” said Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo.

Senate minority leader, Charles Schumer was in town to show his support for this program and also to call on the federal government to help, with funding through grants and with creating an incentive for residents to be a part of this fellowship through loan forgiveness.

“They pay is lower so if we get loan forgiveness it's going to encourage people who might want to go into the field,” said Schumer. “Who said look I might go into a different field I don't like as much or get paid as much, this would make it much more equal.”

Currently, when the county needs help they bring in an ME from New York City.

The office is still working on opioid cases from 2016, partly because its short staffed but it’s also because of the increasing work load.

Monroe County Medical Examiner Dr. Nadia Grander tells 13WHAM it takes about five-months for a suspected overdose autopsy and toxicology report to be complete.

“We want to know exactly which opioid was present, what level it's at, and we want to know if the level is high enough to have contributed to the death, that's what takes time,” said Granger.

In 2016, 128 people died of an opioid overdose, according to Dr. Nadia Granger there are still are about 25 pending cases.

That's compared to 81 total opioid related deaths in all of 2015.

“I'm anticipating those numbers will remain steady if not increase,” said Granger when asked what she is seeing and expects for this year.

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