Coroner: Heroin deaths up in 2016

Christopher Dornblaser
  • Heroin deaths in York County increased slightly in 2016, according to the coroner's report.
  • Coroner Pam Gay said that there were 232 Narcan saves.
  • There have been 17 suspected heroin-related deaths so far in 2017.

Heroin deaths in York County increased slightly in 2016 over the year before, according to the York County Coroner's report for 2016.

Coroner Pam Gay said that there were 70 confirmed heroin deaths in 2016, an increase from 2015's 64 deaths.

However, Gay said there were more Narcan saves from law enforcement in 2016 than in 2015.

"The whole last year — there were 232 saves," she said.

Narcan, also known by the generic name naloxone, is an antidote to opiate overdoses.

Law-enforcement officials were not given the overdose-reversing Narcan until April 2015. There were more than 90 saves in 2015.

Gay said  there are still four drug overdose deaths from 2016 pending toxicology.

Heroin: The 70 heroin deaths are part of 118 drug-overdose deaths in 2016 in York County. That number is larger than in 2015, which had 95 overdose deaths.

“(It) basically indicates that we have an opioid problem in general,” Gay said.

She said not all people are taking opioids illegally; some are taking prescription pain medication.

"Many times, they cross over to heroin," she said.

On Friday, she said that since Jan. 1, there have been 17 suspected heroin-related deaths in York County.

Coroner: Heroin overdoses continued to rise in 2015

In December, there also was  an increase in drug deaths. She attributed that partly to fentanyl, which she said is 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin. Gay said fentanyl is sometimes mixed with heroin because dealers try to sell it as a stronger heroin.

"They want that stronger high, and unfortunately many of them are dying," Gay said.

Other deaths: There were 17 homicides in York County in 2016, which is down from 2015's 18 homicides.

As in the previous year, the homicides were split about evenly between York City and the rest of the county, with nine occurring in York City and eight in the rest of the county.

The cause of death for one homicide victim, 1-year-old John Shermeyer in December in Shrewsbury Township, is still pending, according to the report.

Vehicle deaths were down in 2016, dropping from 52 in 2015 to 46 in 2016. Gay attributed that, in part, to cars being manufactured to be safer.

Police: Teen provided deadly heroin

Home deaths increased from 85 in 2015 to 96 in 2016. Many of the deaths were from elderly people falling in their homes.

“That’s a big issue that we’re constantly working on," Gay said.

She said many organizations in the county will have access to the death data and will collaborate with the coroner's office on ways to prevent the deaths.

“We look at these numbers and have a very proactive community … trying to attack the issues," she said.

To view the full report, check here.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.