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.
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
this statement about the drug crisis:
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.
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
“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.
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.”
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
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.”