State announces partnership with UK and U of L to help state medical examiners

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)-

We’ve talked a lot about the opioid crisis in Kentucky.

It’s causing all kinds of problems and it’s putting a strain on the state’s medical examiners.

Now, the state is teaming up with two of Kentucky’s largest universities to help those medical examiners.

Under the new partnership the state will contract forensic pathology services from the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky, something both sides of this agreement say will help in the fight against opioids.

In 2016 alone, more than 1,400 Kentuckians died from an overdose.

But the state has just nine medical examiners to cover all those people and according to the justice cabinet our examiners are some of the lowest paid in the country.

It’s that salary gap along with the stress of the job that has made retaining medical examiners an issue.

That’s why the state turned to UK and U of L, asking if they would provide worthy examiners in exchange for an increased salary and an opportunity to research the opioid epidemic.

“It’s a win, win for us. We get to continue to serve our communities but at the same time the universities get that training component, they get that mentoring aspect, they get teaching in the classroom, they get to observe our operations and that’s critical for them and it’s critical for us,” said Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Secretary John Tilley.

“On our side we would bring then an academic component of forensic sciences, trying to learn from the cases that have, learn something more, understand what leads to the deaths in the opioid crisis,” said Dr. Darrell Jennings, chair of the UK Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Officials say the partnership will also allow the state to hire an additional examiner.

While both the state and the universities acknowledge the complexity of this opioid epidemic, they say they hope by coming together to solve one aspect of the problem, it will help them get a better grasp on the problem as a whole.

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