Bartholomew County coroner sees increase in overdose deaths, requests more money

(WISH Photo/Vi Nguyen)

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — The opioid epidemic is having a new, unforeseen financial impact.

An Indiana county has seen such a drastic increase in the number of overdose deaths that the coroner’s office is now asking for more money just to make it to the end of the year.

24-Hour News 8 learned from the Bartholomew County Auditor on Wednesday that the coroner is asking for around $14,000.

The Bartholomew County Coroner told 24-Hour News 8 a good chunk of that money will pay for toxicology testing so they can better understand the breakdown of the drugs that are causing the overdoses.

Clayton Nolting was just elected this past November as the coroner for Bartholomew County and said it’s unfortunate to see what’s happening in his community.

“Last year we only had 12 overdoses and this year we are at 26 overdoses, and 19 of those are confirmed opiates. And we have two more that are pending toxicology results,” Nolting said.

24-Hour News 8 has learned that number quadrupled from 2015.

“It’s truly an addiction, and it’s a disease that’s affecting everyone and no one is exempt from. It can reach out and touch anyone,” Nolting said. “We’re seeing that in our case load this year already. For a small county, we have had 132 deaths total for the year, and a large portion of those, like I said, have been overdoses. Especially when you look at last year, we’re past the amount of deaths that we had this time last year.”

The coroner said they are seeing more drug related cases, and with a budget that was already set for him coming in, they simply do not have enough money to cover what’s needed for the rest of the year.

“We need funds because I just can’t hang a close door (sign) on the coroner’s office. we have to run until the end of the year,” Nolting said.

The coroner will go in front of the council Tuesday to ask for an estimated $14,000.

“I mean, we don’t really have a choice something has to be done,” he said.

Nolting added that money would not only help pay for the deputy coroner and autopsies, but also for toxicology testing.

“We can provide the state department of health and toxicology detailed results of what happened, rather than just having present a test that says ‘positive for opiates,’” he said.

Nolting said he wants to provide families with a peace of mind and to help them better understand what happened to their loved one.

“We’re trying to help families better understand what happened and try to educate them, as well and educate the public on this epidemic that the entire nation is struggling with right now,” Nolting said.

One councilor told 24-Hour News 8 on the phone he can understand why the money is needed and feels comfortable with the request.

The council could vote on this next Tuesday and the money would come from the general fund.