LANCASTER — Every single death of a person under 50 in Garrard County this year was drug or alcohol related, according to a report presented during Monday’s Fiscal Court meeting.
Garrard Coroner Daryl Hodge has responded to an unusually high number of death scenes this year, which were 47 as of today. About one-third, or 16 of the deaths, were drug or alcohol related. Fourteen of the victims were under 50, one was in the 50s and another was 60 years old.
“As you can see from the report in front of you, the numbers are disturbing,” Hodge said. “Sixteen lives wasted because of this plague in our community.”
Magistrate Doan Adkison asked the coroner, “What is the big drug? I’ve heard that people are switching to heroin because it’s cheaper than other drugs, especially pills.”
Hodge said he has not yet worked a heroin death, though he is still awaiting the toxicology report for a recent drug-related death.
The most common toxicology report comes back with five or six different drugs plus alcohol, according to the coroner. Usually, prescription painkillers such as hydrocodone, oxymorphone and oxycodone are involved. Other drugs typically found include the tranquilizer Valium as well as methadone, which can be used to treat opiate addiction or chronic pain.
“Unfortunately, the problem is only going to get worse,” Hodge said. “I wish I could tell you differently.”
Because of the variety of illegal and legal drugs often found at death scenes, Hodge worked closely with Garrard County Sheriff Ronnie Wardrip and Lancaster Police Chief Rodney Kidd to learn more about the problem.
The law enforcement leaders also helped the coroner outfit his professional van with equipment, a video camera, a secure place to store evidence collected from death scenes and a drug identification book.
Even with all of the additions to the van as well as an increased caseload, Hodge reported his office has saved taxpayers nearly $2,500 this year. Sending more of the complex cases to Frankfort, which incurs no charge to Garrard officials, and using special deputies who are paid at a set rate per run led to the financial savings.
“I really congratulate you for exercising some innovation in your office,” Garrard Judge-Executive John Wilson said. “Savings is good.”
In other business, the Fiscal Court unanimously approved second reading of an interlocal agreement with Lincoln County regarding 911 service operations.
Typically, Bluegrass 911 is primarily funded through taxes on local landline telephone bills. Since landline use is on the decline, officials recommended ending the 911 surcharge on landlines and switching it to water bills.
Garrard customers would pay about $2.50 monthly for each water meter they have; most residents have only one.
Lincoln Fiscal Court meets today for its first reading of the interlocal agreement.