A surge in overdoses has prompted the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office to request a mobile morgue unit to provide additional space.
The medical examiner's office said a surge of overdoses were reported over the weekend beginning on June 14. The office reported 10 suspected overdose deaths between June 16-18. Another 5 to 6 suspected overdose deaths have been reported since June 18.
The office out of cooler space by June 17. The office contacted the Ohio Department of Health to borrow their mobile refrigerated trailer.
The office has permission to keep the mobile unit until after the July 4th holiday. While heroin laced with fentanyl and other deadly drugs have been a major source of the surge in overdose, officials say they have also seen a rise in other drug overdoses and traffic accidents.
Outside of James Orlando’s office, a reminder how heroin is leaving an impact outside of his door.
“It’s a daily occurrence. It’s almost not uncommon anymore.”
Orlando, president of Summit Psychological Associates, sits directly across from the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office, where the mobile morgue unit now sits. The trailer can store up to 18 bodies, nearly doubling the capacity of the medical examiner’s office. It’s one of four units available through the Ohio Department of Health and the only one currently being used.
“I guess it’s not a surprise for us,” said Orlando.
For the past three years, Orlando’s office has been helping those struggling with a heroin addiction by providing Vivitrol, a drug used to help reduce cravings and block the high.
“The trick is to help them realize that it’s not just about taking that medication, but if they don’t make the behavioral changes in their life, then they’re likely to relapse.”
Orlando said using heroin – sometimes laced with other lethal drugs -- is too similar to Russian Roulette.
“If someone takes that drug they have no idea if it’s the last time they take that drug.”
As the numbers continue to climb, Orlando hopes people don’t become desensitized to the heroin epidemic.
“It’s dangerous. It’s very, very dangerous,” said Orlando “I think that people now have sort of lost a little bit of their edge, or their attention to how at risk everyone who’s opiate addicted is.”
The reason it’s so dangerous, according to Orlando, is that if people are used to hearing about overdose deaths, it may lose attention that could otherwise be used to provide solutions to the problem.
The medical examiner's office has permission to keep the mobile unit until after the July 4th holiday. While heroin laced with fentanyl and other deadly drugs have been a major source of the surge in overdose, officials say they have also seen a rise in other drug overdoses and traffic accidents.
In March, a trailer was sent to Stark County dealing with similar issues.