York County's coroner doesn't see relief from opioid crisis

Written by Brett Sholtis/Transforming Health | Mar 13, 2018 5:20 AM

FILE PHOTO: York County Coroner Pam Gay has worked with a task force to address the heroin epidemic. Her office is dealing this week with a sudden uptick in overdoses. (Photo: File, York Daily Record)

(Harrisburg) -- York county is dealing with a rash of drug overdoses, with 27 deaths so far this year.

Heroin -- mixed with the deadly street version of the drug fentanyl -- has ended lives and shattered families in the county and across the state.

"This is so much stronger than anything that we've been seeing," York County Coroner Pam Gay told WITF's Smart Talk. "For the last two years especially, we're seeing fentanyl in the majority of our heroin-related deaths. So this is really deadly."

She adds she doesn't expect to the situation to get any better soon after a wave of recent heroin overdoses, claimed 13 lives in a span of 10 days in the county.

Despite the push to fight the opioid epidemic, the coroner says it's hard to stop people already addicted from overdosing.

"The people that are dying are the people that we can't reach with that prevention message because they've already started the addiction," she said. "So the only thing that we can do for them is save their lives, talk them into going into treatment, and improve access to treatment."

Last year, 137 people died of drug overdoses in the county, and overdose deaths probably won't taper off for another few years.

But with current efforts in place to prevent children and teens from trying opiates, Gay says she hopes the trend reverses in the long run.

3 EMS ambulance 1.jpg

Susquehanna Township EMS Captain Dan Tempel and EMT Chris Wright speak with a person who is being transported to the hospital for breathing difficulties. (Brett Sholtis/Transforming Health)

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