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York County heroin deaths up in 2015

Written by Mark Walters/York Daily Record | Jan 6, 2016 9:53 AM
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There are seven death investigations still pending that are suspected to be drug-related, said York County Coroner Pam Gay.

(York) -- An annual report by the York County Coroner's Office showed more than 500 death investigations conducted in 2015 and their outcomes.

The 16-page report shows statistics for deaths in York County from 2006 to 2015. Below are three elements of the report, explained by Coroner Pam Gay. Gay, who started her third year in office this year, said she intends to seek re-election when her term ends in 2017.

The coroner is called to sudden, unexpected deaths without a pre-existing medical condition.

Drug cases are down, but heroin deaths are up

There have been 85 confirmed drug deaths in 2015, down from 110 in 2014, according to the report. At 58 and possibly counting -- seven had undetermined causes as of Tuesday -- the county's heroin deaths could top the 62 from 2014, Gay said.

The number of heroin-related deaths is "awful," but it's important to realize the number could have doubled if not for the 90-plus Narcan saves reported by the district attorney as of early December, Gay said.

Some heroin users start taking the drug after using prescription medications, Gay said. The increase in heroin-related deaths could be because of a crackdown on the ability to obtain and renew prescription drugs, which has spurred many to turn to heroin, Gay said.

Suicides are down, but have fluctuated since 2006

The 64 confirmed suicide cases in 2015 is significantly less than the 88 from 2014, but that number is still too many, Gay said.

Fewer suicides has led Gay to believe York County is going in the right direction with suicides, but she's not sure what to attribute that to.

"A lot of people are talking about it," Gay said, noting that schools are now required to have suicide prevention built into their curriculum for teachers and students. "We're glad it's down, needless to say, but it's still obviously a problem."

The low suicide rate, Gay also mentioned, includes the county's four murder-suicides in 2015, which was an uptick from past years.

Helmets, seat belts can save lives

Only two riders in the county's 14 motorcycle, bicycle and ATV deaths were wearing helmets, according to the coroner's report.

Four of those riders had no blood alcohol content and five are still pending a toxicology report. The other five had a blood alcohol content of at least 0.045 percent. The state's legal limit is 0.08 percent.

Of the two who were wearing helmets, one had a blood alcohol content above the legal limit and one is still pending a toxicology report.

About half of the county's 34 other vehicle-related deaths consisted of people who were not wearing seat belts, the report shows.

While wearing a seat belt does not guarantee surviving a vehicle crash, Gay said she has seen quite a few crashes where, if the victim would have been wearing a seat belt, they could have survived.


This article comes to us through a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

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