YORK — Thirteen people in York County have died from suspected heroin and fentanyl overdoses in 10 days, Coroner Pam Gay said.
Gay said heroin and fentanyl death numbers this high are extremely rare.
“We have had two days where we have had three in each 24-hour period,” Gay said. “That’s six overdose deaths in two days.”
Gay said this batch of drugs may be especially potent. She also said there’s no such thing as a “bad batch.”
“Any amount is enough to kill somebody, any amount of heroin and fentanyl,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a good or bad batch. It’s all bad. We want people to understand that probably fentanyl is in this mix, which is what’s causing the deaths.”
“My reaction very simply is one of sadness and disappointment,” District Attorney Dave Sunday said.
Sunday said if a user dies, the dealer can be charged with drug delivery resulting in death, and that carries a maximum penalty of 20 to 40 years in prison.
“Police investigate every overdose death like they would any other murder,” Sunday said. “They look for evidence, they talk to witnesses, and they utilize all their criminal investigative skills to find out who dealt those drugs.”
Sunday said fentanyl, which is often 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, can make those charges all too common.
“The prevalence now of fentanyl is something that has taken a drug that was extremely dangerous and has made it even more dangerous, if that’s possible,” Sunday said.
“Definitely stay close to your loved one,” Gay said. “If you know that they’re a user and they’re trying to get sober or they’re in recovery, that’s when they’re very vulnerable. Stay close to them. Know what they’re doing.”
York County has 26 suspected and confirmed heroin or fentanyl drug overdose deaths so far in 2018. Half of them happened in the past week and a half.
“I pray that it slows down. I pray for the family’s sake that it slows down,” Gay said. “Our hope would be that we would have less deaths this year. To be realistic, we’ve kind of suspected for a few years our deaths are going to continue to probably continue to be high volume.”
The coroner said Narcan, an overdose-reversal drug, often takes longer to work and multiple doses may be needed with fentanyl.