"17 days in, we've had 18 cases:" Overdoses account for one-third of medical examiner's workload

MILWAUKEE -- Officials with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office said Monday, January 16th overdose deaths are accounting for one-third of the office's current workload.

Officials said the opioid abuse epidemic has gotten so bad, at least one autopsy comes back each day with a drug-related cause of death.

Sara Schreiber

"So far in 2017, we`re 17 days in and we`ve had 18 cases that are probable drug-related deaths," Sara Schreiber with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office said.

In Milwaukee County, those numbers from the first 17 days of 2017 are on pace with 2016. Around a third of all autopsies performed were overdose deaths -- the most the office has ever seen.

"A very high percentage of them are opioid related -- whether that be heroin or fentanyl or some other opioid," Schreiber said.

Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office

Drug overdoses now account for a quarter of autopsies in Waukesha County -- double what they were a decade ago. A spokeswoman said there have been three suspected cases already in 2017.

"There's a toll on the medical examiner's office," Nicole Armendariz, Waukesha County spokeswoman said.


Those in both Milwaukee and Waukesha counties said the increase translates into more work for toxicologists and more money needed for the toxicology testing.

For example, a car crash victim costs $175, whereas a drug-related toxicology test costs about $720 on average.


"The number of drugs that are being used by those individuals is increasing, so there`s more toxicology analysis going into these cases, in order to determine the cause or manner," Schreiber said.

It's important to note, just because the number of overdose-related deaths continues to grow, that doesn't mean the efforts to decrease opioid abuse here in southeastern Wisconsin aren't working.

Officials with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office said it will take time to see an impact on their caseload.

Are you, or is someone you know struggling with an opioid addiction? Resources are available HERE.