Coroner: Heroin overdoses continued to rise in 2015

Sean Philip Cotter

Even with more than 90 Narcan saves by police in the past year, it appears slightly more people died of heroin-related overdoses in 2015 than they did the year before, according to York County Coroner Pam Gay.

Angela Lyle of Wrightsville poses with a sign memorializing her sister, Leigh Baxter, who died of a heroin overdose in 2012. Lyle, like other family members who have lost loved ones to heroin, is now active in groups that fight against heroin addiction.

At the time her office released its annual report on Tuesday, it had seen 56 confirmed heroin-related deaths for 2015, with eight more pending toxicology results before they officially can be ruled as such. If the eight do come back as heroin-related overdoses — which suspected ones normally do — the total of 64 will be two higher than 2014’s 62, Gay said.

Law enforcement personnel have been equipped with anti-overdose drug naloxone, also known as Narcan, since spring 2015; officers have made more than 90 saves with the drug, Gay said.

Report urges broad approach to Pa. heroin epidemic

"A good percentage of those would have been our cases," she said.

That means that if officers didn't have Narcan, the total could have been about double 2014's, Gay said, a level she and others were already repeatedly calling an "epidemic."

She said increasing prescription drug abuse is leading people to heroin, as it's cheaper. After all toxicology results come back, the county will likely end up having about 30 prescription-drug overdose deaths, she said.

"It’s all related," she said. "It's not going away anytime soon."

Suicides: What Gay was most pleased to see was the drop in suicides. They fell from 88 in 2014 to 64 this past year, according to the report.

"That's the amazing thing," she said. "It's the first year we've been down in a while."

They had risen each of the past three years, peaking in 2014, which easily had the most in the past 10 years. Gay said she would guess a big reason for the drop is the progress of anti-suicide programs and organizations in schools. No teenagers killed themselves in 2015 in York County, she said.

Homicides: The coroner’s office dealt with 18 homicides in 2015: 17 in York County and one from Adams County.

Included in the York County total was the August death of East Manchester Township’s Cpl. Matthew Hanes, who was shot and paralyzed while on patrol while serving in the Army in Iraq in 2012. The Adams County case was that of the 31-year-old Jess Leipold, who was shot to death by state police after he allegedly showed up at Adams County Prison with a gun. He was taken to York Hospital, where he later died; that's why Gay's office was the one that handled his case.

The other 16 homicide deaths stemmed from 13 incidents in York County; they are split evenly between York City and the rest of the county, including a double murder in York City and a double-murder-suicide incident each in Springettsbury Township and Warrington Township.

Both double-murder-suicide incidents were the result of domestic violence, as were two more murder-suicide incidents that happened in Springettsbury Township and Dillsburg. The April stabbing death of 21-year-old Sami Young, allegedly by her ex-boyfriend Marcus Bordelon, is another slaying police believe is domestic violence.

"There’s help available," Gay said, talking about people feeling trapped in abusive relationships. "You don't have to go through this alone."

For example, people in these kinds of situations can call Access-York and the Victim Assistance Center, which are both part of the YWCA of York, at 846-5400 or (800) 262-8444.


Of the nine York County incidents where the shooter is still alive, two remain unsolved: the York City shootings of 24-year-old Erik Miranda in September and Dakeem Dennison, 19, in December.

The investigation is still underway into the October killing of city resident Dequan Williams, 26, who police officers shot to death outside his Fireside-area home after he allegedly wouldn't put down a knife.