Overdose deaths up in 2018

Published 10:07 am Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Coroner says fentanyl majority of those cases

Lawrence County saw a substantial increase in overdose deaths from 2017 to 2018, according to Lawrence County Coroner Dr. Ben Mack, who gave his 2018 annual report at the county commission meeting on Tuesday.

“Overall, overdose deaths were up 60 percent in 2018 for a total of 24. The year previous, we only had 15,” Mack said. “Fentanyl being the vast majority of those, with 19 for about 79 or 80 percent. One-third of those had heroin on board and the other one-third having methamphetamines.”

Mack added that the rest involved “more typical type things,” including over-the-counter medications and things of that kind.

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“Those numbers are disheartening,” he said. “But the good news is that, so far this year, we’ve only had two confirmed overdose deaths with a few autopsies that are still out pending. We do seem to be heading in the right direction, at least.”

Mack also said Portsmouth, in Scioto County, has reported an increase in recent overdose deaths, as well as some in Ashland, Kentucky and Huntington, West Virginia.

“Most of that hasn’t made it into Lawrence County yet,” he said. “So that’s good for us.”

Though Mack said that, so far in 2019, there hasn’t been many overdose deaths, he added that there has been a large increase in autopsies this year.

“A lot of young people dying of very odd things; lots of medical issues,” he said. “We’ve eaten through about half of our autopsy budget for the year. Hopefully, that will level out or decline so I don’t have to come back to you asking for more funds.”

Mack also said that the coroner’s office is looking forward to having its own office space in the new Joint Response Operations Center (JROC) in Coal Grove, which should be operational in the coming few months.

“That’ll be good to have a set location to be able to meet with families, instead of going to a McDonald’s or something like that,” he said.

In addition, Mack said that the Lawrence County Coroner’s Office is also receiving state grant money for overdose deaths, adding that he hopes that continues.

“That money is for smaller counties like us to not just skirt those things to the side,” he said.  “We want to be able to continue to investigate those well.”

He also added that he recently appointed Dr. Stacey Smith, the first female deputy coroner, to the Lawrence County Coroner’s Office.


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