Dr. Russell Vega is the medical examiner in Manatee and Sarasota Counties. He said the office is dealing with a spike in deaths, which he believes are mostly drug related.
“This July and August were the busiest I’ve ever seen,” said Vega.
He said people are dying from using the potent drugs heroin and fentanyl. The fifty-percent increase in deaths this summer caused him to hire more staff.
“We’ve hired an additional investigator an additional doctor to handle the case load due to the drug surge,” said Vega.
He also said the morgue is out of space. Vega contracted with body transport services to store bodies in off-site facilities. He’s hoping the drug epidemic slows down soon.
“It scares me for my family and all the families out there we really want to get this controlled,” said Vega.
Gerrie Stanhope is familiar with the drug problem. She lost family members due to heroin usage. She believes deputies are doing the best they can to solve the problem, but she doesn’t expect the deaths to stop until demand goes down.
“Families don’t hide it, get help for your loved ones and those who are addicted get some help it’s hard but it’s there,” said Stanhope.
Stanhope helped form a group called “No Longer Silent.” The group meets every third Saturday at the Bradenton Library.
Vega said his office may contract with local funeral homes to keep up with demand.