STEMS Chief Matt Baily recently spoke with ABC27’s Megan Frank

“HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A record number of drug overdose deaths is helping to ease America’s organ shortage, according to a new study.

In 2000, the number of people who died from an overdose and donated an organ in the U.S. was an average of one percent. In 2017, the number was up to around 13 percent.

The Drug Enforcement Agency reports that on average, 13 people in Pennsylvania die of an overdose each day. In 2016, there were over 4,000 overdose deaths, up from just over 3,000 in 2015. Eighty-five percent of deaths involved an opioid like heroin or prescription painkillers.

Chief Matt Bailey of Susquehanna Township EMS believes more people are dying because the drugs they seek are more potent than ever.

“We’ve seen cases where they will specifically look for the type of heroin that has caused a fatal overdose in someone else and go for that because they know it’s very strong and will give them a bigger high,” Bailey said.

The study says doctors could do more to utilize the organs of overdose donors.

Howard Nathan, CEO of the Gift of Life Donor Program, says an organ donor may be labeled as a risk if the person carries HIV or Hepatitis C, but he says donors are tested before a transplant and a new treatment can cure Hepatitis C in a recipient.

“The thing people don’t realize is that the drugs affect their brain, not their vital organs,” Nathan said. “We want doctors to utilize every organ possible to save lives.””