Several months ago we discussed the opioid crisis. Ironically there were people who believed this topic should be left up to medical professionals as the Sheriff’s Office should stick to matters of crime. By Nevada law, the Lyon County Sheriff is the county coroner whose responsibility is to confirm and certify violent, sudden, and suspicious deaths.
Chapter 259 of Nevada Revised Statutes governs that responsibility. All of our deputies are assigned as deputy coroners. Each year I personally review every coroner investigation, looking at health trends to develop strategies for public safety. In 2016, there were 169 coroner cases. Last year, there were 130. Coroner investigations are mandated when a person has been killed by a criminal act, committed suicide, or has suddenly died by unnatural means (i.e., opioid or drug overdose, accident).
The Washoe County Medical Examiner’s Office is contracted to provide us with a cause of death after performing an autopsy. The manner of death is ultimately up to the coroner and is listed as (probably) accidental, suicidal, homicidal, or undetermined. Each autopsy costs the county just under $3,000. In 2016, there were 18 opioid related overdose deaths, costing the county approximately $54,000. In 2017, that number dropped to 11 at a cost of $33,000.
Let’s be clear, opioid overdose includes taking too many prescribed synthetic opiate pills (i.e., hydrocodone, oxycodone, etc.); or using “street” illegal opiates (i.e. heroin) because they can’t get the pills. Opioid addicts will go to extreme measures, which may have been the Fernley Walgreen burglary motive. Nationally, pharmacy burglaries have increased in order to steal opioid pills. So, the opioid crisis affects our communities and businesses, and impacts our tax dollars through coroner responsibilities.
The marijuana folks were right about saving money from marijuana related arrests. Last year, after legalization, there was a 24-percent reduction in drug related arrests with 135 as opposed to 178 in 2016 and 187 in 2015. It should be noted that unless the person was trafficking in large amounts of marijuana, they weren’t sentenced to prison. Marijuana arrests were placed in a diversionary sentencing program, such as drug court.
However, criminal justice folks were right about D.U.I. increases. Last year, after legalization, we experienced a 34-percent increase in D.U.I. arrests because of marijuana impaired drivers. Our historical average was 75-85 annual D.U.I. arrests. Last year, we made 114 arrests and had significant drugged driver D.U.I. highway fatalities. So, are we really saving money and making our communities safer?
And finally, while I believe Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to have ever played the game, I am hoping for a different outcome. Remember, we are out in force today, so please don’t drive impaired. More importantly, this day is one of the highest domestic violence days in the nation. So love your significant other, because they probably don’t care about football and have had to endure the season.
As always, keep the faith.