FRANKFORT, Ky. — As the opioid epidemic rages across Appalachia, one grim consequence has played out in Kentucky's medical examiner's office: A staggering increase in autopsy requests.

Autopsy requests for overdose deaths have jumped more than 26 percent since 2013.

The increase has overwhelmed the State Medical Examiner's Office, which consists of nine doctors for the entire state. And it comes amid a national shortage of forensic pathologists.

Monday, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin's administration announced a partnership with the state's public universities to offer some relief. The state hopes to move its forensic pathologists to the payrolls of the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.

The doctors would still perform autopsies and the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet would still pay their salaries. If the doctors agree to go, they would exit the state's troubled pension system.