Allegheny County Medical Examiner

Mel Evans / AP

A new study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health finds that opioid-related overdose deaths are being underreported, and this means the epidemic may be worse than it appears.

Potentially 70,000 opioid-related overdose deaths were not included in national estimates between 1999 and 2015. Researchers estimates that 1,307 of those deaths where in Pennsylvania, the largest number of any state.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

A recent report from Allegheny County’s medical examiner on the number of overdose fatalities in 2017 contains both good and bad news.

For the fourth year in a row, the number of overdose deaths was the highest on record -- more than 735 people in 2017 -- but the rate of fatalities decreased in each subsequent quarter of last year.

Cliff Owen / AP Photo

Testing stamp bags seized by law enforcement can give almost real-time insight into what drugs are circulating in the community before a public health emergency hits.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The Allegheny County Medical Examiners Office is one of only a few in the country that also has an in-house forensic laboratory.

90.5 WESA’s Deanna Garcia spoke with Medical Examiner Karl Williams about the facility and ongoing trends.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

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Drug-related deaths are usually ruled accidental.

But one Pennsylvania coroner said he's ruling some overdoses homicides. Lycoming County Coroner Charles Kiessling said he’s not the first in Pennsylvania to interpret toxicology reports in that way and that it's legal. 

Drug-related deaths are on the rise in Pennsylvania - the state saw more than 2,700 in 2014. That's an increase of 13 percent from the year before. Among all overdoses, heroin is the most frequently identified drug. 

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The man known for hit songs like "Chances Are," "Misty" and "It's Not For Me To Say," Johnny Mathis, is coming to Pittsburgh next week to perform with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as part of the PSO's Thursday Icons Series. Mr. Mathis will talk about a career in which he has sold millions of records as well as aspects of his personal life including his battle with alcoholism. (starts at 13:06)