EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) — A new report from the El Paso County Coroner's Office reveals disturbing trends in drug-related deaths, domestic violence, and youth suicides.
Overall, there was a 43% increase in people dying from drugs in El Paso County in 2020 compared to 2019, a jump from 130 to 186 people.
“It’s not just drugs,” said El Paso County Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly. “Many categories are up. But drugs had an extraordinary [increase] — the largest increase certainly since I’ve been here.”
Kelly has worked in the coroner’s office since 2008. He says he wasn’t surprised to see a sharp rise in fentanyl deaths, but was taken back by the increase in deaths related to methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. In addition, 40% of drug-related deaths were caused by a combination of substances.
According to data from the El Paso County coroner's annual report:
- Fentanyl deaths increases from 21 in 2019 to 47 in 2020
- Methamphetamine deaths increased from 66 in 2019 to 91 in 2020
- Cocaine deaths increased from 20 in 2019 to 30 in 2020
- Heroin deaths increased from 35 in 2019 to 43 in 2020
“As family members, as the users themselves, to reach out and ask for the help you need, because you might not have another opportunity,” said Dr. Kelly.
The Colorado Springs Police Department focuses on drug-related enforcement in its Metro Vice, Narcotics, and Intelligence Division. CSPD investigates every overdose death within its jurisdiction. However, a spokesperson for CSPD says it's not a problem that police can solve alone. That's the same stance taken by the coroner.
"There's no simple solution to a problem like this," said Dr. Kelly. "Obviously there's a law enforcement component. But as every doctor and detective will tell you, we can't arrest our way out of a drug crisis."
The data also indicates youth suicide rates are climbing after showing improvements a few years ago. Suicides among people ages 11 to 17 increased from nine in 2019 to 15 in 2020. That's a 40% increase in youth suicides in one year. But there is hope on the horizon according to the coroner.
"So far this year in 2021, we've seen a dramatic decrease in our local teen suicides at levels I haven't seen on the good end since I've been here," said Kelly.
El Paso County is actively working on youth suicide prevention. You can find local resources here.