[UPDATE: Contrary to initial reports, Harrison County Sheriff’s Department and Harrison County Coroner’s Office said that Moran likely died from complications of cancer.]
Erin Moran died of a suspected heroin overdose on Saturday, reports claimed, with the Happy Days star apparently becoming the latest victim in an epidemic that has taken over the southern Indiana region where she lived during her final days.
Moran was found dead on Saturday after police responded to a call for an unresponsive female. While there is not yet an official word on Moran’s cause of death, reports indicate that it was believed to be a heroin overdose.
“Authorities found Moran’s body in Indiana following a call about an ‘unresponsive female at around 4 p.m. Saturday,” the Daily Mail noted. “A source told DailyMail.com that Moran, who lived in a trailer park in New Salisbury, Indiana, died of a suspected heroin overdose.”
Moran had a rocky life after Happy Days and her short-lived spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi went off the air. Moran said she struggled with depression, and her work in Hollywood dried up.
Moran lost her California home to foreclosure in 2010 and later went to live with her husband’s mother in a trailer home in Indiana, but Erin was reportedly kicked out due to her drinking and partying. Erin and her husband were reportedly homeless for some time after that, living in a series of motels before eventually coming to live in a trailer park.
While many regions across the country have been dealing with a sharp increase in heroin overdoses and deaths as dealers use potent prescription painkillers to cut the drug, the part of Indiana where Erin Moran lived with her husband has seen one of the more dramatic increases, the News and Tribune reported.
That heroin epidemic has made its way to nearby Clark Memorial Hospital, in the county that neighbors where Moran lived in her final days.
“Last year, the hospital treated 182 non-fatal heroin overdoses, a jump from 51 the year prior. In February of this year, the ER saw 25 non-fatal heroin overdoses, more than six times the number treated in the same month last year,” the News and Tribune report noted.
Carrie Dodson, director of the ER at Clark Memorial Hospital, noted that it can be difficult to slow the heroin overdoses as many users will actively seek out the stronger but more dangerous drugs that spread through the community.
“You hear the patients talk, and it’s kind of interesting because even they talk amongst themselves about how the next big thing is heroin and what it’s being cut with and how dangerous it is,” Dodson said. “And they’ll give each other a heads up about, ‘hey, this batch came out and it’s cut with this tranquilizer, or hey it’s cut with this narcotic.'”
A little further north, in Morgan County, Indiana, public health officials said that the sharp increase in heroin deaths has strained their resources. There were so many deaths last year that the coroner’s office even ran out of money to conduct autopsies, Fox 59 reported.
“You want to budget the money the best that you can for your office and I’m trying to be fiscally responsible. But, when we have an overdose, we do not have a choice but to do an autopsy,” said Morgan County Coroner Annette Rohlman.
As the report noted, the strain of heroin making it way through the community was especially potent and very dangerous. They said that heroin dealers had been mixing the drug with lethal amounts of an elephant tranquilizer called Carfentanil — a drug 10,000 times stronger than morphine.
“Our numbers are going to go through the roof with this Carfentanil. It is going to be here in the county absolutely. It is just a matter of time,” says Rohlman.
There is still no official word whether Erin Moran died of a heroin overdose, and it could still take some time before any cause of death is released. Officials in New Salisbury, Indiana, have not yet said when an autopsy could be conducted on the former Happy Days star’s body.
[Featured Image by David Livingston/Getty Images]