With six weeks left in 2017, there have been 74 confirmed overdose deaths in Butler County, matching last year's total.
County Coroner William Young III's office reported the death total Wednesday afternoon. The trend follows a marked increase in drug-related deaths in the county in recent years — 13 confirmed in 2013, 33 in 2014, 47 in 2015 and 74 last year.
Young said he was not surprised that the threshold had been met, and with a month and a half left in the year, that number is expected to rise.
In addition to confirming the number of overdose deaths with the coroner's office on Wednesday, the Butler Eagle also obtained coroner's reports filed with the county Clerk of Courts that cover a period from January through Oct. 2, 2017. Those reports list the victims' personal information as well as the place, cause and manner of death. All of the overdose deaths were deemed accidental by the coroner's office.
The city of Butler is at the epicenter of Butler County's overdose death crisis, according to those records. Forty of the 70 deaths recorded with the county Clerk of Courts office in 2017 listed Butler as the victim's place of death. Six of the 40 deaths in Butler were pronounced at Butler Memorial Hospital.
Rep. Brian Ellis, R-11, who represents several municipalities in Butler County, said the state legislature is taking the crisis very seriously, with hundreds of legislative actions currently being developed.
“This is hands-down the biggest issue facing the lives of Pennsylvanians right now,” he said. “This is such a powerful topic that we are actually doing bills in the Health, Human Services and Judiciary committees, which are stacked with legislation.”