Chesterton Tribune



Coroner reports heroin deaths up 60 percent in 2017

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Heroin-related deaths in Porter County increased by more than 50 percent last year.

That’s the grim highlight of Coroner Chuck Harris’ 2017 annual report, released today.

According to that report, the Coroner’s Office investigated a total of 50 drug-related deaths last year. Of those, 43 were opiate-related and 32 involved heroin, compared to 20 involving heroin in 2016, an increase of 60 percent.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opiate often mixed with heroin, was detected in eight or 25 percent of the heroin cases.

Harris also points to one other trend: the re-emergence of cocaine. Last year the Coroner’s Office investigated 11 cocaine-related deaths, most of them in combination with heroin. “People use cocaine and heroin (’Speedball’) at the same time to get an intense rush with a high that is supposed to combine the effects of both drugs, while hoping to reduce the negative effects,” Harris said. “The combination of heroin and cocaine can negatively impact both heart rate and rhythm. At extreme levels, this can result in death.”

The Drug Crisis

Harris released this statement about the drug crisis:

“Porter County, along with the rest of the nation, is experiencing a human addiction tsunami. It has been said before, however I will reiterate, we need all hands on deck to be effective in this battle. Even though the drug trend was anticipated to increase, the rate of increase in heroin deaths is alarming. In 2016 there were 20 heroin deaths. In 2017 we have seen over a 50 percent increase in heroin-related deaths from the previous year.

“While there are people and organizations in the community putting tremendous efforts into solving this epidemic, quite frankly it is still not enough. We have let this blemish on our community go unchecked for too long and it will certainly need everyone pitching in to begin to reduce the substance abuse epidemic. That includes parents, grandparents, employers, etc.

“Law enforcement has been fighting this battle with many successes; however they can’t stop the tsunami by themselves. Current law enforcement officials in our community have been extremely innovative in using resources available to them.

“The Porter County Coroner’s Office has also been proactive in reaching out to schools, community organizations, and inmates, to educate them on the dangers of our current drug culture in Porter County. Our ultimate goal in this endeavor is to reverse the current drug trends Porter County is experiencing.

“The drug epidemic does not just affect the families. This affects the community either directly or indirectly. We are losing people to addiction. This affects all families, every neighborhood, and every social status. No one is immune.

“We need education on all levels. We need to have reality drug education in schools. The programs need to be more in depth than being told drugs are bad & just say no. They need to know the reality. They need to know what heroin does to the brain after just trying it once or twice. Adults need to know, too.

“Treatment, detox centers, and rehabilitation also need to become more easily assessable. Some would rather waste time debating if it is a choice or a disease. Yes, it was a choice the first time or two for some. However, you must remember that some were prescribed medications and became addicted through treatment from physicians. People are dying every day. We need to do more than talk about it. When the way we have done things for years doesn’t work, it is time to do something different.”

More Numbers

The Porter County Health Department-Vital Records Division recorded 1,617 deaths in Porter County last year. Of those, 428 (26 percent) were investigated by the Coroner’s Office. Of those 428, 68 autopsies were performed and 131 toxicology studies.

There were 298 natural deaths, two homicides, 35 suicides, 90 accidental, two pending, and one undetermined manner of death (Infant positive for methadone).

Of the 90 accidental deaths, 25 were motor-vehicle accidents, 42 drug-related, seven falls, six drownings, three carbon-monoxide poisonings, one choking, three fire, one gunshot, one vehicle crushing, and one medical misadventure.

“The purpose of this report is to give a snapshot of the trends of deaths and general insight,” Harris said. “The Porter County Coroner’s Office recognizes that each case within this report represents the death of a person; whose absence is grieved by beloved family, friends, and our community. To those individuals, their loved ones, and to all the citizens of Porter County who share the loss, this report is dedicated.”


Posted 2/8/2018




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