YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) – York County Coroner Pam Gay is releasing her preliminary 2017 drug overdose numbers. Deaths from heroin and fentanyl almost doubled from the previous year.
One of the county’s 2017 overdoses is a 19-year-old Dover Township man. His mom wants to share a message.
“He was a great kid, very smart,” Dee Dolan said.
Dolan says her son Joseph went into a deep depression after what happened to his older brother Patrick in 2010.
“He liked to make his brother’s laugh, but when our son Patrick was killed, a lot of that went away,” Dolan said.
Patrick was murdered in Baltimore. Joseph started to use drugs a few years later.
“It was maybe marijuana, maybe drinking,” Dolan said.
This led to June 28th, 2017. Dee couldn’t find her son. His former girlfriend did.
“His car was still there, and she called me screaming,” Dolan said.
Joseph was dead in his car and York County’s first carfentanil overdose. Gay says carfentanil is an elephant tranquilizer and is thousands of times more powerful than heroin. Dee says her son thought what he was using heroin, but it turned out to be straight carfentanil.
“Life is so short, and you kind of go backwards thinking of the memories you had of your child when they’re no longer here,” Dolan said with tears in her eyes.
Gay reports overdose deaths from heroin and fentanyl went from 76 in 2016 to 141 in 2017 in York County. 122 deaths are confirmed and 19 are suspected pending toxicology results due in February.
“We saw the most drug overdoses in the fourth quarter of 2017 in county history,” Gay said.
Overall drug overdose deaths went up from 123 in 2016 to 176 in 2017. Gay says 156 are confirmed and 20 are suspected.
“I know that there’s data out there that tells us that it could go on for a couple more years with the increasing numbers,” Gay said. “I’d like to hope that this is our peak.”
Those at the York Adams Drug and Alcohol Commission say for this epidemic to improve people need to handle it as a disease and not a moral failing.
“I think similar to the AIDs epidemic when that first came out, we had a lot of stigma regarding AIDs. I think you see a similar stigma with substance abuse disorders,” said Audrey Gladfelter, administrator at the Commission.
Dee Dolan has a message for those who may suspect a loved one is using drugs.
“I would say do not second guess it. I would say do whatever you can to try and get your loved one help,” Dolan said.
The York Adams Drug and Alcohol Commission has numerous services and programs to help those battling an addiction. For more information, click here.