Dr. James Gill walked through the morgue in Farmington, Connecticut, recently, past the dock where the bodies come in, past the tissue donations area, and stopped outside the autopsy room.
“We kind of have a typical board listing all of the decedents for the day,” Gill said, pointing to the list of names on a dry erase board. “Overdose, overdose, overdose, overdose overdose. That’s just for today.”
Gill is the chief medical examiner for the state of Connecticut, and of the nine bodies in his custody that day, four were the remains of the people who likely died from an accidental drug overdose. A fifth was a probable suicide involving drugs. It was a sad, but typical day, he explained, with a practical consequence for the state’s morgue: Gill is running out of room to store bodies.
“We’ve had to buy some extra racks and things so we can store more,” he told me. “But we really probably need more cooler space. We’re kind of outgrowing the storage space here.”
In the past two years, Gill’s office has seen a more than a 50 percent increase in autopsies. That’s mostly because of the spike in accidental drug overdoses, he said. Heroin is the big player. Fentanyl deaths have surged, too.