Coroner: Rise in opiate-related deaths a concern

Fremont County Coroner Mark Stratmoen delivered a 3rd quarter update during the Fremont County Commissioners’ October 13th regular meeting.

As of October 1st, there have been 113 Coroner cases so far this year; 5 less than the same timeframe in 2019.

42% of the 113 Coroner cases are considered “non-natural” – accidental, homicides, suicides, or undetermined. This number is slightly above last year at this time; which was 39%.

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So far in 2020, there have been 31 accidental deaths, 14 suicides, and 3 homicides. Compared to the same timeframe last year – accidental deaths are the same, suicides have increased by 4, and homicides are down by 3.

The 31 accidental deaths breakdown to the following: 11 motor-vehicle related, 9 falls, 4 direct drug/alcohol toxicity, 3 drownings, 2 hypothermia, 1 asphyxia, and 1 exsanguination.

The 11 motor-vehicle deaths, same number as 2019, include an ATV death and a motorcycle death. 6 of the deaths were drug and/or alcohol related (toxicology reports on 3 are pending). 7 of 9 deaths in equipped vehicles were not wearing safety restraints where they were available.

“Survivability is increased if people would just wear their seatbelts,” Stratmoen reiterated during the meeting.

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Drug and alcohol related deaths so far in 2020 accounts for 34% of the 113 Coroner cases; 5% higher than the same timeframe last year. Total cases (both natural and non-natural) most common drug-related – 26 alcohol, 6 methamphetamines, 5 opiates, 4 cannabis.

Stratmoen noted the resurgence of opiate-related deaths is “concerning.” That number had decreased over the last few years, and there were none reported during this same timeframe in 2019.

Of the 48 “non-natural” deaths this year, drugs and alcohol account for 46% of them; lower than the 65% reported in 2019. Drugs and/or alcohol were involved in 2 of the 3 homicides, 6 of the 14 suicides, and 14 of the 31 accidental deaths.

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None of the COVID-related deaths in Fremont County have been Coroner cases so far. The deaths have all happened in hospitals. Stratmoen did mention during the update that they do rapid testing on cases that present symptoms, but all have returned negative results.

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