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Lycoming County Coroner's Office to exceed budget amid opioid crisis

A large number of deaths were due to opioid overdoses in the region.

WILLIAMSPORT, LYCOMING COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)- The opioid crisis continues to rise in Lycoming County, with a high number of deaths in 2017.

Unfortunately, this means commissioners can expect the coroner's office to exceed its budget once again.

In this past year, there were 38 deaths in the county due to opioid overdoses. Lycoming County Coroner Charles Kiessling says in order to deal with an epidemic like this, his office needs a higher budget.

The coroner's office is budgeted for about $260,000 a year. That figure covers things like employee salaries, equipment, and tests.

"Autopsy costs, toxicology costs, fuel maintenance on vehicles, all of those things are coming out of that $260,000," said Keissling.

An allowance that's hard to work with.

"We jokingly tell the commissioners we can't operate on the crumbs left of the budget," he said.

"He and his deputy coroners cover an area the side of Rhode Island, larger than the state of Rhode Island, we're certainly going to work with him," said Lycoming County Commissioner Rick Mirabito.

Mirabito says it's hard to raise the budget, but he hopes with the addition of the new trauma center in the area, there will soon be additional help.

"I'm hopeful that if we reach out to UPMC Susquehanna Health that they will also be able to assist in some ways financially," he said.

Both the coroner and commissioner know that even the slightest bit of health can go a long way. But the biggest thing to prevent an exceeded budget is to tackle the opioid addiction crisis all together.

"Hopefully at some point we can get this opioid epidemic under control and reduce some of these costs and more importantly, reduce the loss of lives," said Keissling.

"There's things we can do that don't cost money and we have to start doing them with our kids at the youngest age," said Mirabito. "Really talking to kids about drugs at ages three, and five."

The coroner says if his office were to autopsy all 38 cases of deaths last year, it would have been somewhere around $80,000 over budget.

Lycoming County Commissioners say they are working on getting more treatment facilities in the area, as well as a new space for the coroner's office to help with the opioid crisis.


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