Drug, homicide deaths rise in York County in 2017

Drug and homicide deaths reached  record numbers in 2017, according to the York County Coroner.

There were 27 homicides and 162 drug deaths in 2017, the highest ever for the county, according to Coroner Pam Gay.

The drug and homicide death numbers were a noticeable spike from 2016, when there were 17 homicides and 123 drug deaths, according the coroner's annual report for 2016.

The 2017 statistics, alongside other details on 2017 coroner cases, were released Tuesday, Jan. 30, in the coroner's office's annual statistical report.

Heroin education organization Not One More and supporters hold an Overdose Awareness Day rally on Continental Square in York, Thursday, August 31, 2017.  John A. Pavoncello photo

More:Heroin overdoses spike in York County

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Opioids: Gay said there were spikes in opioid overdose deaths in the beginning and end of 2017.

In November, she said there were 19 heroin-related deaths. At the time Gay noted that the difference in overdose deaths was the presence of fentanyl.

Fentanyl has a purer, higher concentration of the drugs found in heroin — 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, she said at the time.

The toxicology results from those 19 overdoses also showed fentanyl. 

“Almost all of them have come back with at least fentanyl in the mix, if not fentanyl by itself," Gay said.

In 2017, at least 128 of the 162 overdose deaths were heroin- or fentanyl-related, according to the report. Toxicology results for 13 overdose deaths are pending.

In 2016, 116 of the 123 overdose deaths were opioid-related, according to Gay.

Gay said while she's hopeful the numbers will decline, it is possible the numbers will rise.

Gay noted that teenagers overdosing on opioids was down in 2017.

“Thankfully we have not seen any major numbers of deaths related to heroin in the teen population, and I’m hoping that continues," she said.

Gay said she thinks once those teens reach their 20s, there will be a decrease in drug deaths because of the prevention education the teens have received.

The coroner said it's harder to reach people who are already addicted to heroin.

“Without proper treatment, it’s really hard to get them to stop using heroin," she said.

She said treatment and access to treatment need to be improved.

"That's a huge piece of this puzzle," she said.

Homicides: The number of homicides in York County jumped by 10 from 2016 to 2017.

There were 27 homicides in York County in 2017; the next highest homicide figure in the past 10 years was 21 in both 2012 and 2008, according to reports.

Gay couldn't say why the number increased so much last year.

She did say that some of the homicides were connected to the drug problem.

"A lot of those homicides are drug-related," she said.

Sixteen of the 27 homicides came from York City alone, according to the report. 

Also included in 2017's homicides is Carson McCord.

The York Dispatch reported at the time that Carson McCord was just 11 weeks old when he suffered brain injuries in June 1994 while in the care of his father, Vincent R. McCord.

Carson McCord was left blind, partially deaf and brain damaged.

Vincent McCord was allowed into the county's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition diversionary program where he was on probation for three years. He had to pay restitution, medical bills, and other court costs.

The coroner's report states Carson McCord died  April 6 in York Township. His cause of death was blunt-force trauma from the injury caused in 1994, according to the report.

Other deaths: Home and play accident deaths increased by 20 in 2017. The report states that 116 people died in home and play accidents. 

Eighty-six of those deaths were caused by falls in or around a York County home. There were 85 deaths caused by falls in 2016.

Gay said elderly people can suffer a fall in their home, and some don't have their injuries checked until later. The injuries and complications from them can then lead to their deaths.

She also said some people can break a hip, causing them to develop pneumonia. 

"Over a couple weeks' time, they can die that way, too," she said.

Suicides increased from 70 in 2016 to 86 in 2017. The last time it was that high was in 2014, when there were 88 suicides. 

"It waxes and wanes," Gay said. 

Deaths from vehicle crashes dropped from 46 in 2016 to 37 in 2017. There were 52 auto deaths in 2014 and 2015, according to reports.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this had an incorrect outcome of Vincent McCord's case. This has been edited to reflect the correct outcome.