Database tracks heroin death increase in Pa.

County coroners say it’s a problem that’s killing us. Heroin deaths are going up, especially in Pennsylvania. In fact, studies show the Keystone State is number seven on the list of states with the highest numbers of heroin deaths.

A new online, central database is helping lawmakers track the problem. Coroners in the state say they’ve been using it since January to track drug-related deaths, with a focus on heroin overdoses.

“Behind every statistic, there’s a person,” Susan Shanaman, legislative liaison for the Pennsylvania State Coroners Association said. “And that person had a family. And there’s a story behind that.”

“To solve any problem, you need to exactly know what the problem is,” Shanaman added.

The state has been tracking heroin information for awhile, but in a different and less specific way. For example, deaths would be classified as “multi-drug” heroin deaths, without specifying which types of drugs were involved. The database reporting system changes that.

“[We need to know] is it just heroin?” Shanaman said. “Is it heroin mixed with something else? Is it just prescription drugs? You need to have that kind of base information.”

Here’s what the data shows so far. In the Midstate, Lancaster County had the most heroin-related deaths: 92 between 2009 and 2013.

Overall, the state is seeing a huge jump. Last year, Pennsylvania had a 30 percent increase in heroin deaths but just in the first quarter of this year, the state is already looking at another 30 percent increase.

Shanaman says the major roads that run through Pennsylvania contribute to the problem because they make it easier for the drugs to go far, and to do it quickly.

Once more data comes in through the new recording process, coroners across the state say they are hoping for more concrete ways to stop the drug flow.

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