Lake County sheriff's officials expressed concern that the death rate from heroin overdoses has nearly tripled since 2007.
Reports from the Lake County coroner's office indicate that heroin-related deaths have increased 16 percent since 2008, jumping from 30 deaths in 2008 and 2009, to 35 in 2010. An even larger jump occurred between 2007 and 2008, when the number of overdoses more than doubled, from 13 to 30.
Statistics also show 92 people succumbed to substance abuse deaths in 2010, up 5 percent from the 88 substance abuse deaths recorded in 2009, and up 13 percent from the 81 recorded in 2008.
Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran released the findings during a news conference regarding a recent audit of the coroner's office. Curran said part of the solution to the growing number of drug-related deaths is to better educate the public about the dangers of substance abuse.
The audit took place after Curran was appointed to run the office in place of Dr. Richard Keller. Keller resigned after pleading guilty to unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and obstruction of justice Feb. 22 in connection with his work as the medical director of a Waukegan methadone clinic.
He was placed on probation, agreed to step down as coroner and surrendered his license as a medical doctor.
Artis Yancey, a former Waukegan police chief, was confirmed by the Lake County Board Tuesday as the county's new coroner.