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Broome County Heroin Death Records Sought

Sheriff David Harder, District Attorney Stephen Cornwell and County Executive Debra Preston at a news conference on July 28, 2016. [Bob Joseph/WNBF News]
Sheriff David Harder, District Attorney Stephen Cornwell and County Executive Debra Preston at a news conference on July 28, 2016. [Bob Joseph/WNBF News]

Information pertaining to the number of heroin-related deaths in Broome County this year has been withheld by officials. But that information may soon be made public.

District Attorney Stephen Cornwell is seeking specific information regarding heroin-linked deaths from the county’s coroners.

Cornwell on Thursday sent a letter to Dr. John Prindle and Dr. John Zevan requesting “all records” pertaining to potential drug overdose deaths since 2014.

The DA advised the coroners that his office will investigate all overdose deaths as potential homicides.

Cornwell directed the coroners to notify him promptly of all suspected overdose deaths.

The letter came a week after a news conference during which county officials were asked by WNBF News about the number of heroin-related deaths so far this year.

Sheriff David Harder and County Executive Debra Preston responded by saying that did not know the number.

Preston said “there’s not an exact number” and she said it wasn’t true, for example, that there had been four in the past week. She said “it takes awhile” to get the statistics.

Preston also suggested some deaths regarded as Broome County overdoses actually involved Tioga County residents. She said “to say everything is Broome County is not really true.”

After the county executive’s response, Cornwell said from his perspective “one is too many.” Preston then added “one is too many but, I mean, as far as saying that we have hundreds and hundreds, I don’t think that that’s the case right now because I don’t see those statistics.”

Local law enforcement officials say while no one is authorized to release exact overdose data, the numbers are staggering. In the six hours before last week’s news conference, the city of Binghamton responded to at least three suspected heroin overdoses. One of those people died.

There have been other heroin-related deaths in Broome County in the last seven days. The exact number is unknown.

Police agencies and medics are administering the overdose antidote naloxone dozens of times each week, saving many lives. In some cases, individuals have been saved with naloxone on several occasions.

In 2013, at least 31 heroin overdose deaths were recorded in Broome County. In the first six weeks of 2014, ten overdose deaths were reported in the county. The number of overdose cases has continued to rise since then.

Suspected heroin seized by police in Broome County on July 28, 2016. [Bob Joseph/WNBF News]
Suspected heroin seized by police in Broome County on July 28, 2016. [Bob Joseph/WNBF News]
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