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Record Heroin Overdoses Overwhelming Manatee Medical Examiner

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A record number of heroin overdoses in Manatee County has put a strain on families and facilities.

Those same overdoses are pushing the limits of the medical examiner's office, which has seen record numbers of autopsies in July and August of this year, according to the Bradenton Herald.

Centerstone in Manatee County tackles the behavioral aspect of drug addiction, by helping those hooked on heroin break away from the places and the people that keep them chasing that next "fix."

Centerstone’s Chief Clinical Officer Melissa Larkin-Skinner says people turned to heroin after the state made it virtually impossible for those addicted to prescription opioids to get the drugs. 

“The heroin initially they were cutting with another opioid called fentanyl, which was a much stronger opioid and so their breathing would basically shut down,” Larkin-Skinner said. “Now, they're using some sort of animal tranquilizer called carfentanyl, we're also seeing pure fentanyl on the street.”

That same report says the medical examiner has had to rent space in order to accommodate the number of bodies awaiting autopsy.

The medical examiner's office has been performing record numbers of autopsies lately on people who've overdosed on heroin, according to the Bradenton Herald.

Larkin-Skinner said there's no clear answer as to why the county has such a high rate of overdoses.

“A lot of times what seems to be happening is that people think they're getting heroin, but they're not,” she said. “They're getting these stronger drugs that are much more potent, work faster and that's what's resulting in all the overdoses.”

The Medical Examiner's office told the Bradenton Herald they had two of their busiest months ever in July and August.

Susan Giles Wantuck is our midday news host, and a producer and reporter for WUSF Public Media who focuses her storytelling on arts, culture and history.