Madison County Coroner Stephen P. Nonn is reporting that an unfortunate and grim record has been broken as opioid related death investigations continue to tax resources of the Office of the Coroner. With over a month and a half remaining in the calendar year, 92 fatal overdoses have been reported in 2018, surpassing the previous record of high of 91 in 2014. Some cases are awaiting final toxicology reports but evidence at the scene and/or a history of drug use by the decedent suggests a drug overdose as the cause of death.
“Most tragically is the number of people who are left behind to grieve in the wake of this continuing epidemic”, said Coroner Nonn, adding, “It is an epidemic that continues to be a serious criminal justice problem and public health concern that is taxing the resources of first responders, social services, the justice system, and our office is certainly not excluded from the list.”
Although costs associated with the investigations continue to mount as the quantity of cases rise, the coroner’s office has managed to keep up and Nonn praised the Madison County Board and their Finance and Government Operations Committee for their collaborative effort in recognizing the seriousness and danger of this epidemic and maintaining the funding for this less often recognized entity of public safety.
“It is true that over the last couple of years, there has been some paring back of budgets and spending throughout county government – including some areas of my budget – but in the end, the Office of Coroner and the Finance Committee, engaged in very productive dialogue in protecting areas of budgeting and spending as the overdose surge continues”, Nonn said. “This process was a partnership discussion with our office fairly proposing what we needed and could justify to complete our mission task and the finance committee, along with the full Madison County Board listening, being engaged, and being responsive to the public safety needs of the Citizens of Madison County.”
As to the epidemic of drug deaths, with more than 72,000 overdose deaths annually nationwide, (2017 statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse), Nonn’s office continues to pursue a three pronged approach to fight this deadly epidemic that has inundated Madison County.
Education: to provide public education opportunities with speaking engagements within educational institutions, civic groups, and health care specialists, with the hope of reaching just one with the dangers that the drugs bring into the community.
Enforcement: his office also continues to work with other law enforcement agencies in a cooperative effort that assists in interviews of witnesses and collection of evidence at the scene that can allow for full prosecution for those dealers of death.
Treatment: to partner with rehabilitation centers in recognition that this epidemic cannot be solved by arrests alone, those who are addicted and are targets of the dealers need to be addressed as well.