How the heroin epidemic is impacting your tax dollars

YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – We hear so much about the heroin epidemic and its impact on families, but the overdoses are now affecting your tax dollars.

Shortly after York County Coroner Pam Gay took office in 2014, she decided all heroin-related deaths must be treated as a crime, which meant an autopsy and toxicology tests had to be performed.

“What we saw was the heroin deaths were increasing at a faster rate than we had even anticipated, and by the end of 2014, there were more heroin-related deaths than there were prescription drug deaths,” Gay said.

In 2015, 165 autopsies were performed in the county. Sixty-five of them were heroin related. In 2016, 70 out of 190 autopsies performed were heroin related.

“Oh boy, 2017 is really not looking good at all,” Gay said. “We’ve actually seen an uptick, unfortunately. We have currently 41 suspected heroin-related deaths that we have sent for autopsy.”

If you’ve never personally been impacted by the heroin epidemic, there’s a reason you should care. The cost of an autopsy and toxicology testing ranges between $1,800 and $2,600. Still, Gay believes it’s worth every penny.

“We do think that it would be significantly worse if we weren’t treating these as the crime scenes that they are,” she said. “We want to get to the person whose doing the major trafficking, and how do you do that if you don’t pursue these as crimes?”

The coroner’s office went over their budget by $32,000 last year. A big contributing factor were those heroin-related autopsies.

ABC27 looked into the total number of autopsies completed in 2015 in several surrounding counties to see how they compare to York County. Below is the data we found:

Chester County – 220 autopsies per 515,939 people = 43 autopsies per 100,000 people

Lancaster County – 242 autopsies per 536,624 people = 46 autopsies per 100,000 people

Lehigh County – 298 autopsies per 360,685 people = 83 autopsies per 100,000 people

York County – 190 autopsies per 442,867 people = 43 autopsies per 100,000 people

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