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United States : Opioid Epidemic Is Reaching a Critical Level in Monroe County, and More Medical Examiners Are Desperately Needed to Keep Up With Dozens of Overdose Deaths.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced support for a major initiative, with leadership from Monroe County and the University Of Rochester School Of Medicine, to create New York States first ever forensic pathologists (FP) fellowship program - outside of New York City. This new fellowship is being created by Monroe County to serve as a national model to help address the nationwide shortage of forensic pathologists. Schumer said with an opioid crisis sweeping through Upstate New York and around the country, more forensic pathologists are desperately needed to fight back.

The University of Rochester Medical School and Monroe County are stepping into the breach to help curb the tide of the opioid crisis plaguing Upstate New York and the nation. This partnership between U of R, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, and the Monroe County Medical Examiner office, is creating a national model to significantly increase the number of forensic pathologists now, in such short supply. The rise in fatal drug-related overdoses has overwhelmed medical examiner (ME) offices especially in Monroe County. Many of these MEs are on the front lines of battling the growing caseload of autopsies and toxicology screens fueled by the opioid epidemic. The increasing workload creates a backlog for these hard-working professionals that impacts police investigations and court cases. The federal Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services must do more to help ME offices, which already face obstacles like staff shortages and limited resources. said Senator Schumer. By supporting local fellowships, like that between Monroe County and the University of Rochester, and adding would be forensic pathologists to a national loan repayment program, we will encourage a new generation of doctors to complete forensic pathology training, and chip away at the nationwide shortage. I will continue to fight to make sure our communities are equipped with the necessary resources to address this growing problem.

Schumer explained that right now there are only about half of the number of forensic pathologists needed to keep up with the demands in ME offices across the nation. This shortage has been particularly challenging for the Monroe County Office of the Medical Examiner which provides forensic death investigations and autopsy services to thirteen counties in central and western New York. They are working diligently to attract and recruit full time forensic pathologists to fill three of their four FP positions. In 2015 the Monroe County Medical Examiners office received $176,000 from the U.S. Justice Department to help hire contract Forensic Pathologists to work periodically in Monroe County to help shoulder the caseload, however Monroe County, under the leadership of County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo is pursuing new and innovative efforts to recruit and hire new full-time FPs and phase out the contract FPs.

Schumer said, Monroe County is a prime example of how to combat this shortage. By incentivizing medical professionals to become medical examiners, Monroe is creating a valuable pipeline to fill the gaps in ME offices. In the past, the Monroe County ME office has hired outside help to conduct their autopsies. However, by training and hiring new MEs, the office will be able to save taxpayers money while processing autopsies more efficiently.

Schumer added, The forensic pathologist FP shortage is a national issue and requires a national response.

The Monroe County Office of the Medical Examiner (MCOME) is staffed by Dr. Nadia Granger the Medical Examiner & Chief Forensic Pathologist, as well as a new Associate Forensic Pathologist who begins full time employment this month. The Monroe County ME Office additionally has a commitment from a Forensic Pathologist to start working full time mid-2018. To fill its fourth and last FP vacancy, Monroe County has recently begun negotiations with the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry to create a new Forensic Pathologist Fellowship program that would place its first FP Fellow to work at the Monroe County MEs office by 2019.

Schumer is pushing the U.S. Department of Justice to act on recommendations stemming from the DOJs National Commission on Forensic Science to establish a new grant program to help create and operate new Forensic Pathologist Fellowship. Communities like Monroe that are planning to establish Fellowship programs will require financial support to help fund activities such as the Fellows salaries, training costs, and training materials. The Fellows would be University of Rochester Forensic Pathology students in the 3rd year of their residency. In his letter to the Department of Justice, Schumer noted that this new Fellowship program would be only the second of its kind in New York and is representative of exactly the type of new Fellowship program envisioned and recommended by the National Commission on Forensic Science for national support from the Department of Justice to address the Forensic Pathologist shortage. Costs associated with the training and support of the FP Fellows during their time working in an ME office could be supported by new DOJ grant programs while ME offices would receive the benefit of a new pipeline of trained forensic pathologists. Moreover, Schumer noted now is a key time for the DOJ to act in light of its April announcement to finalize a strategic plan aimed to increase the capacity of forensic science providers, including conducting a needs assessment of forensic science laboratories that examines workload, backlog, personnel and equipment needs.

Secondly, Schumer urged the DOJ to act on the DOJs National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS) recommendation to work with university medical schools to add forensic pathology in the medical school curriculum within the first 2 years of study since this is a prime time to attract future FPs.

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Publication:Mena Report
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Jul 10, 2017
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