Spike of heroin-related deaths continues in EBR Parish

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The spike of heroin-related deaths continues in East Baton Rouge Parish.

According to the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner, Dr. William "Beau" Clark, 13 people have died in 2014 due to an overdose of heroin. There were only 6 confirmed cases by this time last year.

Clark said in 2013, there were 35 heroin deaths.  In 2012, there were five deaths.

"It is a serious problem here, Jefferson Parish, Orleans.  The numbers are fairly high," said District Attorney Hillar Moore.

The coroner said heroin is a cheap drug and highly accessible in Louisiana.   The body builds up tolerance to heroin, and users often need higher doses, which Clark says can often lead to overdose.

"Obviously we'd like to stop people from using heroin first and mainly dealing heroin.  It has been a problem not only in Baton Rouge, but around the nation," said Moore.

Heroin was a prime topic of discussion during the 2014 legislative session. In particular, the penalties for to those convicted for distribution of the drug will be increased due to the passage of Senate Bill 87. That bill is currently on Governor Jindal's desk for final passage.

The bill raises the minimum sentence for distribution from five years to 10 years. The maximum sentence for a first offense will remain 50 years, but will increase to 99 years for later convictions.

Local law enforcement agencies addressed the topic in March of this year after witnessing a spike in overdoses.

"We're trying everything that we can to put the word out that you're going to end up in the hospital or possibly end up dead," Cpl. L'Jean McKneely, a representative for the Baton Rouge Police Department said in a past interview.

Cpl. McKneely added that anyone who assists with the injection of heroin can face a charge of second-degree murder if the individual dies as a result of an overdose.

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