Overdose Deaths Spike in Lackawanna County

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SCRANTON, Pa. -- The Lackawanna County coroner says a spike in deaths this week is likely tied to opioid overdoses; nine people have died in less than a week.

The district attorney is now investigating to see if the deaths are connected.

Over the past few years, the Lackawanna County coroner says his office has averaged one or two deaths a week from opioid overdoses.

The ninth this week happened Wednesday morning, and the coroner is now calling it one of the deadliest weeks of the epidemic.

Shirley Matsko from Old Forge is a mother of five. Her family says she is one of the nine people in Lackawanna County to die of an opioid overdose this week.

"The way she died was just not right. She's only 38. I tried to help, but I think we need more help out here for this," said Tabatha Lim, the victim's sister.

Shirley's sister Tabatha and daughter Krista say the upswing in overdose deaths speaks to the scope of the opioid epidemic in Lackawanna County.

The Lackawanna County coroner says 2018 is on track to surpass 2017 in record overdose deaths.

"I think we're at maybe 65 that we know were drug overdoses, and as of Friday we had at least 30 that were in the system as pending toxicology, so we have that out there. Then, put on the eight from the last four days. We had one this morning," said Lackawanna County Coroner Tim Rowland.

Rowland says the nine deaths this week are individuals ranging from mid-30s to late 60s. Each case will be investigated before the coroner's office officially rules on a cause of death.

Rowland says it's likely that the individuals overdosed on fentanyl, an opioid often mixed with heroin.

Martin Henehan with the Forever Sammi Foundation is helping some of the families arrange funerals this week.

"All of the deaths were unnecessary, but a lot of them, I'm sure, weren't using alone. And the people that were using with them got scared, and just simply said, 'Let's get out of here,' and left them there, unresponsive, to meet their final end, and it didn't have to be that way," Henehan said.

Shirley Matsko's family says her death exposes a problem they hope for a solution soon.

"Someone really needs to do something to stop it, because it's just going, the number is just going to keep going up. And more families are going to be where we are now," Lim said.

We reached out to the Lackawanna County district attorney and he told us each of the nine deaths will be investigated by the office to see if they are connected through a dealer who could be charged for supplying the deadly drugs.

24 comments

  • diddunuffin

    Legalize all drugs and let natural selection take its course. It’s the only solution. Obviously pandering to addicts is not working to stop the problem that is plaguing society.

  • donny hud43987

    People who use prescription drugs as a recreation are called drug addicts, that’s what they do for a living they get high, prescription drugs for pain for people who legitimately need them are legitimate, only the people that are abusing these prescriptions to get high are the ones causing all these problems of overdosing on pain medication, don’t blame the medication, it does a lot of people good, it helps them!, people that abused the drug like I said are doing it to get high!!! I have no sympathy for these people , it was a choice!! If you don’t need pain medication and you are taking it, it’s a choice, like drinking a beer, they take these medications to get high! People who are prescribed these medications are not the ones overdosing, it’s the people that don’t know what they’re doing and taking large quantities of unprescribed pain medication! Once again, no sympathy, you illegally made a choice to consume prescribed medication on your own, there are consequences!

      • Giggity-MF-goo

        nahh, once a junkie, always a junkie. And this comes from a junkie I know who works as a counselor for junkies. She hasnt used in a decade, but still calls herself a junkie. Now thats alot of that word isnt it?

      • Roman

        All addicts going through recovery will call themselves addicts for the rest of their lives. Your friend chose the word “junkie” to describe herself. That’s her choice. That bears no weight on anything. My comment including a link is moderating. Google “Purdue pharma addiction drug.” Follow the money. Then I dare you to call anyone a junkie. Who profits from their addiction? Who profits from their recovery? Spoiler: the actual junkies.

      • darkhorse6669

        Yeah once you clean up and get away from the drugs its not like you are magically cured for life. Addicts need to remind themselves that everyday because just one slip up and they can be in the gutter again. Many addicts that get and stay clean end up being very successful in life. I guarantee its a much harder battle than ignorant donny has ever taken on in his life.

    • burtfan16

      You really have no clue as to what you’re talking about. Stop commenting here. You’re just showing off your complete ignorance of the subject.

      • jimbrony

        So a person says that making bad choices leads to bad consequences-but they have no idea what they’re talking about? Nobody is putting a gun to any addict/junkie/dependent persons head saying ‘shoot up/pop these pills or you’re a goner’. Make all the excuses you want for yourself and others, if you want to quit, you can quit. There’s help available for those that need it and want it.

  • jimbrony

    “Someone really needs to do something to stop it” How about for starters, the users stop using it? I personally know several people that quit on their own (no professional outside help) and have stayed clean ever since (years). According to them: Is it easy? No. Do they still want the feeling? Every day. But the desire to be clean (and alive) outweighs the desire to go back. Usually there’s an enabler that allows them to continue their destructive ways. The enablers need to stop or go away, and supporters need to move in.

      • jimbrony

        You disagree? Don’t want a speeding ticket? Don’t speed. Don’t want to be eaten by a shark? Stay out of the water. It’s not that I don’t have sympathy for some of these people, but a lot of our problems are self-induced.

      • Roman

        Jim, ask any addict how it started. It’s not as simple as you make it look. Most addicts come from a dependency from a prescribed medication.

  • randychapman2691

    How about if our country,meaning our elected leaders tell China to take your fentanyl and synthetic weed and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. It could be a start.

    • jimbrony

      I’ve got a gallon of herbicide from China out in my gardening shed. I’ve not once had the desire to smoke, snort, ingest, or inject it into my body. Don’t blame the Chinese or our politicians for something they’re not responsible for.

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