At yesterday morning’s County Commissioners meeting, Dr. Jeffrey Yocum presented his 2018 report as County Coroner.

Last year, the Coroner’s office investigated 208 natural deaths and 40 accidental deaths (down from 48 in 2017). The Coroner’s office recorded 716 cremations across the county.

Drug-related deaths remained even at 27. Although heroin use remains prolific, education and awareness events, the availability of Narcan, and a warm handoff policy were all said to have helped stabilize the overdose rate. All but two of the drug-related deaths were linked to opiate use. So far in 2019, no overdose deaths have been reported.

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Suicides were up about 22% this year to 22 total deaths, 16 of which were death by gunshot, five by asphyxiation, and one by carbon monoxide poisoning. The oldest suicide victim was 87; the youngest just 12. The average age was 49 and about 18% had a drug or alcohol history. The Coroner’s office is also exploring how it can better equip families with more information about resources available to them following the loss of a loved one through suicide.

Do you or a love one need help? You matter, and local resources are available 24/7 by calling 211.

Three homicides occurred in Lebanon in 2018, up from two in 2017. One case remains open.

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Two emerging problems were mentioned by the Coroner.

The first is the cost of autopsies on deaths that are strongly believed to be overdoses. “We can save a lot of money by doing toxicology to prove it’s an overdose before we send them for autopsy,” explained Dr. Yocum. He explained that due to hospital ownership changes it’s not that easy to get the bloodwork done first anymore, so his office is exploring an option with another lab that could save the County money when processing these cases.

The second is unclaimed bodies. The number of unclaimed bodies spiked from three in 2017 to 15 in 2018. “The family unit isn’t really the family unit anymore,” said Dr. Yocum. “Yesterday we found a body that had been there for fourth months.” Buse Funeral Home helps the County by providing an affordable service for these individuals to be cremated and buried. Dr. Yocum noted that sadly the issue isn’t just identifying a family member, but a family member interested in taking responsibility for the body.

This article was made possible by Commissioner Litz’s video stream of the presentation. You can watch the video yourself below.

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