Overdoses involving heroin and other opiates are an epidemic. Cumberland County Coroner Charlie Hall is keeping track and he does not like what he sees.
“Heroin overdoses are on the rise. I saw a big spike in 2013, it went from 2 to 14, and that number continues to go up,” said Hall.
Last year in Cumberland County 35 people died from overdoses, there are 30 so far this year and 12 are from heroin.
“We still have four months to go until the end of the year. We will probably end up with 16 or 17,” said Hall.
“The community at large, if they are not directly impacted by this, really does not understand how serious this issue is,” said Megan Silverstrim, spokesperson Cumberland County.
The county has formed a community group called the COOP Coalition, which stands for Cumberland Opiate Overdose Prevention.
“From treatment, to law enforcement to the coroners office, everybody is really being impacted by this and it is putting a strain and we want to do everything we can to help these people,” said Silverstrim.
The group is made up of public servants and recovered addicts. The coalition hopes to educate the public through town hall meetings and improve services for addicts.
“The rehab is not long enough. The insurance companies only pay for 30 days of rehab so in 28 days they kick you out of rehab and you are supposed to be cured but you’re not. They end up shooting up again and the next thing ya know they are dead,” said Hall.
Last year 14 people died from heroin overdoses in Cumberland County, but that number could have been much higher. Emergency responders were able to reverse 84 overdoses with the use of Narcan.
“Just because we may start to see a decline in deaths does not mean that the health epidemic does not still exist and we may just be saving more people with the use of Narcan,” said Silverstrim.
The COOP Coalition is planning a town hall meeting at Central Penn College in September.