York County coroner seeks re-election
York County Coroner Pam Gay is running for re-election this year to build on some of the changes she has helped to bring about since taking the job in 2014.
“I’m not done what I started,” Gay said. “I have a lot of things I want to complete yet. It’s hard to complete what you want in the first four years, that’s for sure.”
Gay has led the push to reduce the growing number of deaths linked to heroin and opiate use in York County.
Less than three months after starting as York County coroner in January 2014, Gay’s office identified the growing trend of overdose deaths as an epidemic.
By the summer of that year, Gay and York County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Dave Sunday had founded the York County Heroin Task Force, a volunteer group of community and county officials, health care providers, addiction and recovery specialists, nonprofit organizations and addicts working to combat the epidemic.
The task force has since acquired funding, allowing for a reorganization. The task force is now called the York Regional Opiate Collaborative, with York City Bureau of Health Medical Director Dr. Matthew Howie serving as executive director.
Over the first three years of her first term as coroner, Gay said she has learned to be patient when working to implement initiatives at the county level.
“Sometimes things don’t move as quickly as you’d like, but with patience and working with a lot of other entities, you can make things happen,” Gay said.
'Way behind': The York County Coroner’s office needs more attention to get up to speed with other similar county coroner offices, Gay said.
If re-elected, Gay said she will work to ensure that her office receives national accreditation from the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners.
The coroner’s office also needs its own separate morgue and forensic center as its caseload is rapidly outgrowing the morgue at York Hospital, Gay said. The morgue reaches capacity several times a month, Gay said, with the coroner's office sharing the eight or nine adult spaces at the morgue with decedents from the hospital.
The space limitations were first identified in 2004 by former York County Coroner Barry Bloss, Gay said. With a growing and aging population, along with the growing number of overdose deaths and suicides, that problem has only been magnified in the last 13 years, Gay said.
A new facility also could allow for autopsies to be conducted in York County, Gay said. The coroner's office contracts forensic pathologists at Lehigh Valley Hospital to conduct its autopsies, but a new morgue could be built to accommodate an autopsy suite, Gay said. Discussions about hiring a forensic pathologist and conducting autopsies in York County are at an early stage, she said.
Educating residents: As the campaign rolls on, Gay said she will continue doing what she has been doing for the last three years — educating the public about the opioid epidemic and suicide prevention while providing competent death investigations.
Over the last 2 1/2 years, Gay, along with Sunday and Chief Deputy Coroner Claude Stabley, have presented and served on panels regarding the opioid epidemic more than 100 times, according to a campaign news release.
“My team and I look forward to continuing our mission to serve our York County community during the next four years in an updated office that is equipped at providing our residents and their deceased loved ones with the highest standards of forensic death investigation, along with providing needed health education to combat preventable causes of death while reaching out with compassion for those survivors who are left behind,” Gay said in the release.
Gay will be running in the Republican primary May 16. As of Monday, she faces no challengers for the GOP’s nomination.