deaths were on the rise last year in Porter County, although the overall
number of accidental overdose and drug-related deaths remained stable.
Suicides were way
down, however, after spiking in 2012.
And motor vehicle
fatalities were near a 19-year low.
Those are the
trends revealed by Coroner Chuck Harris’ recently released 2013 report.
accidental overdose and drug-related deaths. There were 26 last year, the
same number as in 2012.
suspected heroin-related deaths, though, rose to 16 in 2013, from nine in
2012, an increase of 78 percent. Heroin-related deaths, by way of contrast,
totaled 19 in 2011 and 18 in 2010.
Of the 16
heroin-related fatalities, all but two victims were males. The victim’s
average age was 29 but seven of them--nearly half--were 25 or younger, one
of them 20 years of age and three of them 21. Six or 38 percent of the
victims were Dunelanders.
Of the remaining 10
drug-related deaths, eight involved prescription medications, often in
combination with other drugs. One victim died after ingesting a synthetic
drug; another of cardiovascular collapse related to methamphetamine use.
“It is my opinion
that this ‘silent epidemic’ will continue to escalate,” Harris said. “At
this time we are living in a sea of drugs and our younger generation is
drowning in it. One of the reasons for the increase in the use of heroin is
that while the purity of heroin has increased, the cost has dropped to
nearly a third of what it cost five years ago. Heroin users can purchase a
‘fix’ of heroin for about the cost of a six pack of beer.”
“A large percentage
of heroin abusers are young Caucasian males from middle-class families,”
Harris noted. “Many begin abusing opiate-based controlled prescription
medication drugs which escalates to heroin use. This is a focal reason why
parents should keep prescription medications in a secure location or at
least keep track of the number of pills.”
“I believe the
number of deaths will only decrease when we see a comprehensive countywide
response to addiction that incorporates community-based education,
detoxification, aftercare, counseling, family support, and rehabilitation,”
Harris added. “We urge young people to avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other
drugs, but national surveys show us that substance use is common among
high-school students and most young people accept it as part of teenage
social life. If we ignore the reality of teen drug use and fail to provide
young people with honest, informative drug education, we increase their risk
of falling into abusive patterns.”
After an enormous
increase of suicides in 2012--39, the most in any year in Porter County
since at least 1995--the number dropped in 2013 to 24, 38-percent decrease.
The average number of suicides in each of the last 19 years: 21.
Ten of last year’s
suicides or 38 percent were committed in Duneland. Seven of the victims shot
themselves; four overdosed on drugs; four walked into traffic.
“I believe some of
the decrease in this rate can be attributed to mental health facilities,
such as Porter-Starke Services, reaching out to people in need and
effectively treating them,” Harris said. “There is no cookie-cutter reason
why people choose this option, but we as a community should feel fortunate
to have the local resources to address different aspects of mental health
* In 2013 11 people
died in motor vehicle accidents, compared to nine in 2012, an increase of 22
percent. Those 11 fatalities, however, were the third fewest in 19 years,
after the nine in 2012 and eight in 1997. The highest number of MVA
fatalities over the last 19 years: 36 in 2004. The average number of MVA
fatalities over the last 19 years: 22.
* Two pedestrians
died in MVAs in 2013, compared to none in 2012, two in 2011, and three in
* One person died
of carbon monoxide poisoning in a house fire in Portage.
* One person died
after falling from a bicycle in Valparaiso.
* An elderly man
died of positional asphyxia in Chesterton.
* There were no
drownings in 2013, compared to four in 2012 and 2011 and one in 2009. The
highest number of drownings in the last 19 years: eight in 1995.
There was a single
homicide reported in 2013: that of an Akron, Ind., man found shot to death
in a ditch near Hebron.
Five homicides were
reported in 2012 and 2011. The most in any of the last 19 years: six in