Wayne County sets record for drug-related deaths

RICHMOND, Ind. – Drug-related deaths in Wayne County are skyrocketing. And now the county has already passed its record for most in a year.

As of Monday afternoon, county coroner Ron Stevens says Wayne County has had a total of 68 drug-related deaths in 2017. The total has already surpassed the county’s previous record of 57 which was set in 2016.

“So, we already exceeded that, and we already have half of November and half of December to go,” Stevens said.

Since taking his job, Stevens says drug related deaths have nearly doubled every year. In 2013, Stevens’ first year, he says there were less than 20 drugs-related deaths.

“I’m not a naïve person, I knew when I ran for this office I’d be dealing with death of course, drug-related death to an extent. But to see it virtually double every year I’ve been in office is just horrendous,” he said.

Stevens says the vast majority of the deaths are due to opioids. However, he says his main concern lies in the fact that the county has seen at least eight deaths due to Carfentanil, a powerful synthetic opioid that is 10,000 times more potent that morphine, and originally intended to be used on large animals.

“I saw the first Carfentanil related death in June, and since then we’ve have seven more,” he said.

Wayne County Sheriff Jeff Cappa says part of the problem lies with the county’s location. He says many major highways run through Wayne County, which means there’s no shortage of drug pipelines. He added that the epidemic has also led to an increase in property crimes, armed robberies, shootings and other acts of violence.

“We see quite a bit of heroin coming out of the Dayton, Ohio area,” Cappa said.

However, Cappa is quick to point out that the problems being experienced in Wayne County are similarly shared state, and nation-wide.

“It’s going to take a long time to get us through this,” he said.

Stevens says he fully expects the current drug-related death total to rise by the end of the year. He says he currently has about 16 death cases pending, and typically half to three quarters of them come back positive for drugs.

“It’s no respecter of age, it’s not respecter of socio-economic background, it’s no respecter of race or any of those factors, it’s just deadly and it’s across the board,” he said.

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