Coroner report shows more fentanyl deaths in El Paso County, but slower increase so far this year

Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 6:37 PM MDT|Updated: Sep. 12, 2022 at 6:40 PM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - The El Paso County coroner presented a report to the Colorado Springs City Council summarizing deaths in 2022 so far.

In the report, Dr. Leon Kelly says fentanyl deaths in El Paso County are on track to surpass all other years so far. He says so far, the county has seen a little over 60 fentanyl-related accidental deaths. This number is expected to jump to around 120 by January, compared to 99 accidental deaths in 2021.

But Dr. Kelly says there is a silver lining here, albeit a small one. This is the first year since fentanyl has become an issue in the country that this number will not double from the previous year.

“So, we hope that this is the first sign of a slowing down of the increase and maybe the beginning of a plateau,” Dr. Kelly said, “but once again it’s not a plateau we want to be on, it’s a place that may be is the beginnings of the turnaround.”

He credits social programs focused on educating the public on the dangers of fentanyl with this slow-down, but says there is still work to be done.

Another aspect of the report that he focused on in the city council meeting was suicides. He said at this point in 2022, there are five more suicides reported than this time in 2021. We are on track to surpass last year’s numbers; 2021 ended with at least 176 suicides.

But he says the story gets a little better when looking at youth numbers. So far in 2022, there have been two reported suicides in people under 18. In 2021, there were four total. But in 2020, that number was 15. Dr. Kelly credits similar social programs to fentanyl in this decrease.

" I think that’s such a direct reflection of the efforts that the community has made, parents, kids, schools, public health and others in addressing this issue, particularly in a time where we know what the youth have gone through, the challenges that they’ve had, and to be where we are, I think should be viewed as a success in the model to how we can address these other things, like fentanyl,” Kelly said.

You can view the entire presentation here, where he discussed other topics, such as homicides.

And if you are struggling with mental health, you can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention hotline, 988, or visit this website for free help.