Monroe County opioid deaths nearly 20 times higher than 5 years ago
Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - The number of people who died in Monroe County as a direct result of using heroin, opioids, fentanyl, or other related substance is nearly 20 times higher compared to five years ago.
The Monroe County Office of the Medical Examiner released data on Tuesday morning pertaining to those deaths.
“As Medical Examiner, I am releasing these data in the full interest of public transparency and accountability,” said Dr. Nadia Granger, Monroe County Medical Examiner. "We took extraordinary caution in properly attributing the cause of death in all cases to ensure the data generated is both accurate and reliable."
After completing a "comprehensive review" the Office found the following number of deaths each year:
- 2011: 11
- 2012: 30
- 2013: 67
- 2014: 95
- 2015: 85
- 2016: 206
Of those 206 deaths in 2016, 169 were in Monroe County, while 37 occurred in surrounding counties which contract for autopsy services with the Office of the Medical Examiner.
"It's heart-wrenching just to hear the numbers that are just coming up, because my pain is being shared by so many other people," said Dean Lucas, whose son was one of those 169 deaths last year. "It's just really a brutal walk that we're in. I mean, when you are looking at that many people dying yearly, you act differently."
He says acting differently would include drug testing his son the night before he died, and not believing the lies he told to conceal his heroin addiction. But he adds hindsight is 20/20.
The age range of the victims of overdoses ranged from under 20 to 76, with a median age of 35.
Robert Biernbaum, Chief Medical Officer at Trillium Health, said they are inundated with people asking for medication to get off of heroin or other opioids.
"I just started prescribing suboxone over the past couple of months, and initially, your first year, you're only allowed 30 cyboxin patients," he said. "I could have filled that in two weeks."
The M.E.'s Office noted this data does not include deaths wherein opioids and other related substances were present, but the cause of death was attributed to some other cause or injury. For example, someone who drove under the influence of drugs and died in a fatal crash as a result would not be included in these statistics.
A 13WHAM News investigation in May found the data had not been updated in nearly 12 months. That continued until Tuesday morning, when this new set of data was released.
"Moving forward, we will review the viability of releasing more periodic reports on a recurring basis,” Dr. Granger said.
In 2019, the University of Rochester will offer a fellowship with the Medical Examiner’s Office. This will give residents real world experience while allowing them to help with the increase in cases at the M.E.’s office.
As for Dean, he has a message for other families with loved ones hooked on heroin.
"Push harder, do better than I did," he said. "Find a way, no matter what route you have to take. Never stop pushing, because if your child's alive, you have something I don't."