"It's just nonstop anymore. We're seeing the same tragedy over and over again," Harshbarger said.
Harshbarger said as much as 65 percent of the approximately 10 bodies a day the coroner's office is handling are suspected overdose deaths. Such deaths rose to a record 3,050 people in Ohio last year, who died mainly from heroin overdoses. In Montgomery County, the number of accidental drug overdose deaths climbed from 127 in 2010 to 355 last year, based on preliminary figures.
The local coroner's office handles bodies from approximately 30 counties, according to Harshbarger, who said his office has struggled to process bodies at the current intake rate before reaching its 42-body storage capacity.
"We're struggling, but we are meeting the needs," he said. "But we're at a critical point. If this continues over time, we'll have to investigate a new physical structure. That's a big ask."
Harshbarger said the current facility was remodeled last year to add 12 new storage units in anticipation of the increased demand, but there is no room in the building to accommodate more storage without compromising office space and the autopsy lab.
Cramped quarters, in addition to the steady stream of bodies, are already having an impact on morale, he said: "There's no decompression time, and that begins to weigh on people."