In the 12-month
period between October 2015 and October 2016, Porter County’s law
enforcement officers used their department-issued Narcan anti-opioid
antidote kits to save the lives of 28 overdose victims. Yet, those heroics
notwithstanding, Coroner Chuck Harris is reporting a record number of fatal
opioid overdoses last year.
That’s the lead
from Harris’ 2016 annual report, released on Wednesday.
Last year fully 20
heroin-related deaths were confirmed, compared to 12 in both 2015 and 2014.
An additional 16 fatal overdoses were attributed to other opioids, for a
total of 36 opioid-related deaths in 2016, compared to 18 in 2015, an
increase of fully 100 percent.
substance-related deaths last year: 46, compared to 29 in 2015, a 57-percent
“The heroin and
opioid epidemic devastates lives regardless of age, gender, race, geography,
or income,” Harris said. “It is an equal opportunity killer. We are working
hard in Porter County to fight this battle. It is a team approach to help
addicts with recovery, prosecute drug dealers, reduce the supply of
dangerous drugs, and educate people about the dangers. We will only be
successful if we work together to keep our communities safe and healthy.”
overdose victim in 2016 was 17; the oldest, 61. Fourteen of the 36 victims
were 30 or younger. The average age of the 36: 37. Six of the overdoses
occurred in Duneland. And in three of the heroin overdoses, the heroin was
later found to have been laced with Fentanyl, which Harris characterized as
an“even more potent opioid than heroin and an increasing concern for our
Complete coverage of Thurday night’s “Drug Prevention and Outreach Program”
at Chesterton High School will appear in Monday’s edition of the
Office investigated a total of 70 accidental deaths in 2016, compared to 63
in 2015, an uptick of 11 percent and the second highest number in 20 years,
behind 72 in 2008.
of all kinds have averaged around 55 per year over the last 10 years; 48 per
year over the last 20.
The second leading
cause of accidental deaths in 2016--after drug-related--was motor vehicle
accidents (MVAs), with 17, one fewer than the 18 in 2015 but still 55
percent more than the 11 in both 2014 and 2013, and nearly double the nine
in 2012. By way of comparison, the 20-year high in MVA fatalities was 36 in
2004. Six of the fatal MVAs last year occurred in Duneland.
deaths in 2016:
--Three people died
of asphyxia, by choking to death on food (two in 2015).
--Two drowned, one
at Indiana Dunes State Park, the other in a bathtub in Chesterton (one).
--Nine died of
injuries sustained in falls (nine). The average age of nine: 67.
--One person died
in a house fire (one).
--One died of
hypothermia, in a yard in Portage Township in February 2016 (zero).
infant died of overlay (zero).
There were no fatal
industrial accidents reported to the Coroner’s Office last year. In one case
the cause of death remains undetermined: a male John Doe found in a wooded
area in Center Township in September 2016.
Harris ruled 26
deaths last year to be suicides, compared to 25 in 2015 (26 in 2014, 24 in
2013, a 10-year-high of 36 in 2012).
Of those 26, 16
died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound; five by hanging; and one each by
asphyxia, drug overdose, mixed drug reaction, exsanguination, and train
Four of the 26
suicides were 30 or younger, the youngest being 14. The average age of the
No homicides were
reported in 2016, Harris noted. Over the last 20 years Porter County has
averaged three homicides per year.