Number of heroin-related deaths on the rise in York County
York County has seen a major spike in deaths from heroin. Last year, the number of people in York County who died from using the drug tripled, compared to 2013, accord to county Coroner, Pam Gay, who released her annual report earlier Friday. Gay says this increase in deaths by Heroin is not a surprise. She’s been predicting this trend since February.
According to the report, 51 people died due to heroin in 2014, that’s compared to 17 the year before. But 11 more are likely to be added to the 2014 list once toxicology reports are completed.
“Heroin is extremely dangerous. It’s highly addictive, we have users who tell us after one or two times they’re hooked. It totally rewires the brain,” said Pam Gay, the York County Coroner.
That's one of the reasons why the York County Heroin Task Force was created. The task force is a combination of community, government, and medical agencies focused on public education. But Gay says as people age she expects the trends to get worse before they get better.
"It would be my ultimate goal that we would see lower numbers for all these categories for next year. I don't know if that will happen but we would like to do that. We do feel that we're on the right track," said Gay.
According to the Pennsylvania Drug and Alcohol Department the majority of heroin users start as prescription drug abusers.
"In the northeast right now we're seeing a lot of issues related to opiate addiction...it's a direct link between the prescription drug problem and the heroin problem and it's basically what's reflected in this report," said Gay.
York County District Attorney Tom Kearney says the uptick in these incidents has made his office take a different look at the way they prosecute.
"We're now going after those people who are bringing in - not that there's good heroin - but heroin that kills, but bad heroin. We're trying real hard to prosecute those people really hard," said Kearney.
The next task force meeting is in February. Besides heroin deaths, the number of suicides is on the rise. It's up 16 from the previous year, but the number of homicides has decreased. Kearney says that's a result of an increase in gang arrests.