Heroin overdose deaths skyrocketing; Alton, IL

The death of a man this week in East Alton potentially is the 22nd fatal heroin overdose of 2011, a number four times greater than what Madison County saw just four years ago, the coroner said Tuesday.

“In 2008, we had five cases; in 2009, seven; in 2010, 18,” Coroner Stephen Nonn said. “There is definitely a problem here. We’re not even halfway through the year.”

An autopsy was conducted Tuesday on Jessie S. Outhouse, 29, who died at his home in the 200 block of Westwood Place in East Alton; his body was found Monday. Results of the toxicology tests will not be known for several weeks, but if they bear out, the victim will become the latest tally in what is becoming a growing local problem.

Nonn said several of the 22 cases still are pending laboratory tests, but evidence leads investigators to believe that they are all heroin-related. Right now, they are listed as “suspected,” he said.

Nonn has been charting the deaths all year, hoping to draw conclusions as to where and how the incidents are taking place, in order to assist police who have been cracking down on the problem. Authorities have pledged to follow the trail of deaths to stop the supply.

“We’re tracking so we know where the problem areas are. We’re working with the feds, the DEA and local law enforcement. We’re getting really aggressive about this,” he said.

The statistics show the victims range in age from 17 to 63. The average age is 36.9 years.

There is only one teenager in the group, but Nonn is quick to point out that no one age group is immune. He also notes that the numbers don’t include people who end up only in the emergency room – and not the morgue.

East Alton Police Chief Dwynn Isringhausen said Outhouse’s grandparents found his body in the home where they all lived. Police received the call at 5:13 p.m. Monday.

Isringhausen said there was no evidence of foul play.

Asked whether there was evidence of drug involvement, he would say only, “There is evidence to suggest we need to wait for the toxicology tests.”

The autopsy results on Outhouse were listed as “indeterminate, pending the results of toxicology,” Chief Deputy Coroner Roger Smith said.

“At this point, this is becoming a public health issue,” Smith said. “I’ve been here 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it. I used to think it was going to hit and go away, but now I don’t know.”




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