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Ohio county considering adding 2nd morgue to handle rising number of fentanyl overdoses

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ohio — If overdose deaths don’t slow down in Franklin County, Ohio, a temporary morgue may be needed to store the bodies.

The county has seen 23 overdose deaths from January 31 to February 7, Dr. Anahi Ortiz, the county’s coroner, said in a statement on her Facebook page. The next day, the county had five more.

Most of the deaths were likely due to fentanyl, Ortiz said.

Morgue techs are “constantly working [and] don’t take lunch” to keep up with the overdose deaths, the county coroner told CNN affiliate WSYX. If the overdose rate stays at the same pace or worsens, the county may have to bring in a temporary morgue for storage of bodies, Ortiz said.

Ortiz urged those in need of treatment to visit the city of Columbus’ opiate crisis information website.

The synthetic opioid, originally developed as an anesthetic for surgery, is the deadliest drug in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine, and just .025 milligrams can be deadly.

While Franklin County usually has one or two overdose deaths in a day, Ortiz said on Facebook, one 26-hour period in September 2019 saw 10 people dying of overdoses.

That year, overdose deaths in the county were up 15% from the year before, and 90% were opiate-related.

The rise comes in the midst of a joint Columbus-Franklin County plan, begun in 2017, to combat the opiate epidemic in the state that brought together first responders, law enforcement, mental health clinicians, consumers, family members and members of faith communities.

Among the plan’s 2019 goals were hospitals collaborating to provide other pain management options and providing resources to people with opiate use disorders as they are released from jail.

The opioid epidemic is a national problem. It is estimated that more than 130 people die every day in the US after overdosing on opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Drug makers and distributors have faced criticism for ignoring the science on opioid addiction risk and aggressively marketing prescription opioids.

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