Wood County sees decrease in drug overdose deaths

Wood County Coroner Mike St. Clair gives his annual report to the Wood County Commission on Monday as Wood County Prosecutor Pat Lefebure and Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens listen. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — Wood County saw a decrease in deaths due to drug overdoses in 2017, the coroner reported.

Wood County Coroner Mike St. Clair appeared before the Wood County Commission Monday to present his annual coroner’s report.

The county had 20 drug-related deaths in 2017, down from 43 in 2016 and 34 in 2015.

St. Clair said he did not know why the county saw such a decrease, other than local law enforcement is doing a good job in getting drugs off the street.

Also, the county has good emergency medical services, he said.

”They are getting to people and saving them with Narcan,” St. Clair said.

Local fire departments are also carrying Narcan and getting to overdose patients quickly, St. Clair said.

St. Clair said he does not agree with the notion some people have of letting overdose patients die, especially if they have had Narcan used on them before.

”If we have a drug available to save lives, we should use it,” he said.

St. Clair said drug deaths usually involve younger people, but he did not have a breakdown of ages.

Local residents could have been taken to hospitals outside Parkersburg and their deaths would not be recorded as a drug death here.

”That death is not reported as a Wood County death,” St. Clair said. ”It is not, because the Wood County coroner doesn’t investigate it.”

Suicides were up going to 17 in 2017 compared to nine in 2016.

Commissioners wondered if drug abuse might have played a part in the suicides.

”Are those related to drugs,” St. Clair asked. ”Possibly, sometimes. Sometimes, you just don’t know.”

Homicides were also up with six in 2017 compared to three in 2016 and 2015 each.

Death from motor vehicle crashes was up with 13 in 2017 compared to five in 2016 and 10 in 2015.

”We are finding some motor vehicle accidents are drug related,” St. Clair said. The death was caused by the crash but drugs could have contributed, he added.

People who had a heart attack but had no physician of record were 18 in 2017 compared to two in 2016 and six in 2015. St. Clair said these were people who were not taking medication for their condition nor were they under any doctor’s care.

”What is interesting is these people are usually of advanced age,” St. Clair said.

Undetermined deaths where the death was natural, but it could not be determined, went from 18 in 2017 from 24 in 2016 and 22 in 2015.

No one died in Wood County for the last three years while having surgery or shortly after surgery.

There was one drowning death in 2017 compared to two in 2016 and two in 2015. There were four alcohol related deaths in 2017 compared to two in 2016.

Deaths resulting in falls were 10 in 2017 compared to 12 in 2016 and 10 in 2015.

ATV deaths were two in 2017, zero in 2016 and zero in 2015.

All of the reports covered deaths in Wood County.

In 2017, resident deaths, people who owned homes here but might have died out of the county, were 1,096 while occurrence deaths, people who died in Wood County, were 1,092 compared to 2016, which had 1,108 resident deaths and 1,049 occurrence deaths.

St. Clair had to wait until March 5 to give his report because he was still awaiting pending death certificates from 2017 to be finalized.