An increase in Mille Lacs County deaths for 2018 over the previous year was reported to the county commissioners on Tuesday, Feb. 19. Homicides were the highest they have been in five years.

Dr. Angelique Quinn Strobl of Midwest Medical Examiner presented the statistics, along with other information during the regular county board meeting.

The total deaths for 2018 was reported at 209, a five-year high for Mille Lacs County. The lowest number of reported deaths for the same period was 184 in 2015.

Homicides were at a five-year high with three deaths, one more than the two reported in 2017. In 2018 two men, ages 34 and 45 and one female, 59, died as a result of gunshot wounds, sharp force injuries and blunt and sharp force injuries under the homicide classification.

The number of suicides in the county was at six for 2018. Five of the deaths were men who died of gunshot wounds in ages 15 to 80 years old. The number represents 2.9 percent of the total reported deaths in the county. The number also represents two more suicides than 2017, but down from the five-year high of eight in 2014.

The total accidental deaths reported for 2018 was 16. Death by motor vehicle accidents was up by three with five reported for 2018 and two reported in 2017. All decedents were male ages 32 to 81 years old. Alcohol was present in three incidents and methamphetamine was present in one incident. The five-year high was nine reported in 2014.

The number of non-motor vehicle accidents of 11 is down from 18 in 2017. There were three deaths as a result of drugs/alcohol/substance abuse (13 were reported in 2017). All were male ages 30, 32 and 51 years old. The substances included two with Fentanyl, two Fentanyl analogs (homemade), one heroin, one methamphetamine and two prescription drugs. One or more of the substances were present in each decedent.

Strobl cautioned commissioners when asked about the number of county drug overdoses stating that county residents who died while in another county were not reported in these numbers. She was also asked if the number of drug overdoses are down due to the use of Narcan. Strobl said she could not comment on that question, but added, “I have seen deaths where the person is holding a needle in one hand and Narcan in the other. They didn’t administer the Narcan to themselves in time.”

Deaths in the “other” classification were caused by asphyxiation (2), blunt force injuries (4), drowning (1) and sharp force injury (1).

There were two deaths reported with an undetermined cause of death: a 46-year-old woman was found in the Rum River and a 7-month-old died following unsafe sleep conditions (sleeping with one or more adults).

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