Hamilton County drug problem likely larger than the numbers show

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – Hamilton County had a record number of drug overdose deaths in 2017 and the coroner said the true number of overdoses is likely much higher.

“We don’t know the real numbers,” Hamilton County Coroner John Chalfin said. “People don’t realize how widespread this (problem) is. We are killing more people with drugs than with automobile accidents.”

The number of drug overdose deaths in Hamilton County has risen steadily over the last four years.

In 2014, the county had 18 drug overdose deaths and in 2017 there were 36 with six more toxicology reports being processed.

Chalfin said one reason the overdose deaths are under reported is because his office has trouble counting people who overdose in Carmel and Fishers, the two most populated areas in the county.

Often times people in those cities who are experiencing a drug overdose are taken to Marion County hospitals, Community or St. Vincent.

“If people in those communities go to those hospitals and if they expire there, that’s a Marion County case not a Hamilton case,” Chalfin said. “So we lose those numbers.”

Chalfin added this problem is not unique to Hamilton and Marion counties.

“This is throughout the state and it’s not just our state, it’s neighboring states,” he said.

Chalfin estimates the true number of overdoses in Hamilton County is about 50 percent higher than what he recorded in 2017, or closer to 54.

Chalfin along with other Hamilton County leaders will hold a forum Saturday addressing the drug issue in the county, signs of drug abuse and treatment options for those struggling with the disease in hopes of drawing more attention to the issue.

Chalfin and his deputy coroners are also working with state lawmakers on creating a form for doctors to use to help counties better track overdose deaths.