The rising number of overdose deaths has strained the resources of the state’s only medical examiner’s office. Limited staffing and a growing number of requests have slowed down investigations – and threaten the office’s accreditation.
The state medical examiner’s office reviews thousands of unexplained deaths each year. In 2008, they performed about a thousand autopsies and examinations, and investigated about 300 death scenes. But last year, the same five-member staff went to 500 death scenes and did more than 1200 exams. The office has fallen behind on investigations. Health department officials say the uptick in overdose deaths is partly to blame.
Now the medical examiner’s office has been warned it will lose accreditation from the National Association of Medical Examiners. Health department officials say they’re hiring a full time assistant medical examiner to ease the backlog.