Chesterton Tribune



Fatal opioid overdoses surge in 2016 despite use of Narcan kits

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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.

Total substance-related deaths last year: 46, compared to 29 in 2015, a 57-percent increase.

“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.”

The youngest 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 community.”

Editor’s note: Complete coverage of Thurday night’s “Drug Prevention and Outreach Program” at Chesterton High School will appear in Monday’s edition of the Chesterton Tribune.

Other Accidental Deaths

The Coroner’s 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.

Accidental deaths 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.

Other accidental 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).

--A 4-month-old 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 collision.

Four of the 26 suicides were 30 or younger, the youngest being 14. The average age of the 26: 47.


No homicides were reported in 2016, Harris noted. Over the last 20 years Porter County has averaged three homicides per year.


Posted 3/10/2017




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