El Paso County sees increase in drug deaths: coroner


In 2017, the El Paso County Coroner's Office conducted 1,215 autopsies on behalf of 20 communties, with the most, 902, being done for El Paso County.

The Coroner’s Office investigates all sudden, unexpected and non-natural deaths.

Deputy Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly tells the Independent via email he found the drop-off of teen suicides encouraging but noted the "ever emergence of heroin and, in particular, heroin combined with methamphetamine."

The report contains these findings:

• Of the 378 deaths due to accidents, 147 resulted from drugs, that's an increase from the 126 drug deaths in 2016. Another 106 died from falls. Motor vehicle crashes claimed 60 lives. Of those, the largest number, 26, died in sedans, followed by 10 each on motorcycles and in SUVs; 30 who died weren't wearing seatbelts.

Dr. Kelly: Heroin still emerging as a death factor. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Dr. Kelly: Heroin still emerging as a death factor.
• Of the 147 drug related accidental deaths, the biggest number, 38, involved methamphetamine, followed by prescription opioids, 32; heroin and methamphetamine, 29; and heroin alone, 24. Average age of those who died from drugs was 42, and 65 percent were male. Also, 71 percent had a prior history of substance abuse and addiction, while 29 percent had a history of mental illness. In 2016, there were 160 drug abuse related deaths.

• Of the 308 deaths from natural causes, 171, or 56 percent, stemmed from cardiovascular issues. The next largest category was chronic alcoholism, at 11 percent, or 33 deaths.

• As in past years, most homicides, 70 percent, involved firearms. Guns were used in 30 of the 42 homicides. The others were due to sharp force, 5; blunt force, 5; neglect, 1, and physical restraint, 1. Eight of the 42 happened due to domestic violence.

• There were 164 deaths due to suicide, a drop from 179 in 2016. Half of those suicide deaths in 2017 involved people who had a reported history of mental illness. Ranging in age from 12 to 99 years, the average age was 43, and a quarter of those who completed suicide had made notes or posted social media messages indicating suicidal intentions. Most, 75 percent, were male, and 76 percent of firearm deaths involved use of their personal weapon.

• Of the 53 child deaths (under 18 years old), 13 were suicides and 9 were homicides. In 2016, there were 15 teen suicides. In the first four months of 2017, 10 teens completed suicide. Months with none included May, June, July, August, November and December.

Ten El Paso County deaths resulted in donating 29 organs for transplantation. In 2016, 28 organs were recovered.

Read the full report here:
See related PDF EPCCO_2017.pdf

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