County Overdose Deaths Top Last Year’s Record Number
WILKES-BARRE — Coroner Bill Lisman on Wednesday afternoon had just confirmed to a reporter that 2017 was the deadliest year for drug overdoses in Luzerne County history with 143 fatalities when he heard his fax machine start.
A toxicology report from a recent death had just arrived, forcing him to amend the grim statistic he just provided.
“The number 143 might be 144. It’s coming over the fax machine right now,” Lisman said, before pausing for a quick review of the document. “Yeah, this is another one.”
As of Wednesday, there have been 144 confirmed drug overdose deaths in Luzerne County in 2017, edging past the record of 140 set last year.
There are about five suspected overdoses he is still investigating, Lisman said.
And 2017 still has four more days.
“We surpassed last year,” Lisman said. “Our final numbers will probably be in the 150 range by the time we’re done.”
The record number of overdoses was attributed to the continued distribution and use of ultra-lethal fentanyl, an synthetic opioid drug which is much more powerful than heroin.
The rise in deaths continues despite public awareness campaigns and the widespread distribution of the opioid-reversal drug naloxone, commonly called by the brand name Narcan.
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LUZERNE COUNTY DRUG OD DEATHS
2017: 144 (5 others suspected)
SOURCE: Luzerne County Coroner’s Office
NEED MORE INFO?
• U.S. Attorney’s Opioid Strategy: www.wbcitizensvoice.com/pdfs/opiodstrategy.pdf
• Info on Pennsylvania Opioid Epidemic: www.pa.gov/collections/opioid-epidemic
• PA Get Help Now
• Luzerne and Wyoming Counties Drug and Alcohol Program
111 N. Pennsylvania Ave.
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701