KOKOMO - Howard County Coroner Steven Seele released 2017 second-quarter death statistics Monday, showing a decrease in overdose deaths from the year's first quarter.
The data, however, shows that Howard County is still on pace to nearly double last year's totals related to drug overdose deaths.
Overall, eight cases handled by the coroner's office from April 1 to June 30 were determined to be drug overdoses. Five of the deaths were attributed to opiates, with three involving heroin, according to a press release distributed by Seele.
Fentanyl, made illegally and not purchased off the shelf, was involved in two deaths, while methamphetamine was also involved in two deaths, noted Seele. Carfentanil, known as a sedative for large animals like elephants, has not yet been seen in Howard County.
Howard County, in total, experienced 22 confirmed overdose deaths during the first half of 2017, noted Seele.
In all of 2016, Howard County recorded 24 overdose deaths.
"It's obvious we are going to surpass last year's overdose death total," said Seele in the release. "If current trends continue, it will be a significant increase. Howard County is not alone in this grim statistic. The drug epidemic continue to kill at an alarming rate statewide."
From Jan. 1 through March 31 there were 14 drug overdose deaths in Howard County. Of the overdose deaths, 11 were opiate-related, nine of which involved heroin.
Some local officials expressed optimism at the end of last year, as the county's overdose death figure dropped from 34 confirmed drug overdose deaths in 2015 to 24 in 2016.
But officials who hoped to see progress in 2017 have so far encountered nothing but the stark realization that drugs, specifically heroin, continue to permeate Howard County despite a multitude of efforts to counteract its drug and addiction epidemic.
In 2012, there were 23 confirmed overdose deaths in the county, compared to 26 deaths in 2013 and 20 in 2014.
Seele noted in today's release that there are three cases in the second quarter that are still pending toxicology before the final cause and manner of death can be determined.