Spike in heroin overdose deaths, and Racine Co. Medical Examiner's Office has exceeded autopsy budget

RACINE (WITI) -- The Racine County Medical Examiner's Office says it has exceeded its autopsy budget -- and that's largely due to the spike in drug overdose deaths.

"I've noticed the autopsy numbers have increased steadily as our caseload has over the last four years," Racine County Medical Examiner Michael Payne said.

The Medical Examiner's Office is charged $1,500 for an autopsy -- plus a $250 conveyance fee, since Racine County utilizes Milwaukee County facilities for the procedure.

"There's considerable time and cost involved with these," Payne said.

Racine County has seen the number of autopsies performed increase from 48 in 2010 to 78 in 2013. This year, Payne says Racine County, budgeted for 78 autopsies, has already requested more than 80, with nearly four months left in the year.

"Like all the other counties in southeastern Wisconsin, we're dealing with heroin deaths," Payne said.

The number of heroin deaths continues to climb in Racine County -- more than doubling from 2011 through 2013. That means more requests for autopsies.

"With more aggressive pursuits by law enforcement to go after people responsible for the deaths in heroin, a complete autopsy is necessary to determine that is the exact cause of the decedent`s death," Payne said.

Payne says another reason for the increase in the number of autopsies performed by his office involves what he says is a drop in the number of people keeping current on their visits to the doctor's office.

"We`re called out to home scenes where people are found dead, and often times, there`s no medical records or even a doctor who can tell us what was wrong with that person, so we`re kinda left scratching our heads as to what caused the death, so we`ll send them for the autopsy," Payne said.

Racine's County Executive says while the county may be over its budget for covering autopsy costs, he anticipates being under budget in other areas, and will reallocate funds as necessary.

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