Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $250,000)
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory (MSPCL) is requesting funds through the Coverdell Competitive 2021 Grant, to fund a Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Process Improvement project for the Drug Identification unit (DRUGS). The LSS methodology assists organizations with identifying, analyzing, and improving processes to accomplish the agency’s mission more efficiently and effectively.
Since 2012, the MSPCL has faced a steady demand for expedited forensic drug analysis, particularly for cases suspected to contain opioids. Priority analysis requests accounts for more than half of the monthly completed cases within the unit. There are numerous cases within the backlog which remain unassigned unless they are requested for judicial prosecution. The current drug backlog is just under 17,000 cases.
DRUGS seeks to improve basic core functions and other process improvements to the MSPCL activities involving drug assignment, analysis and reporting. These activities include, but are not limited to, developing methodical approaches for case assignment, analytical processing and case review to ensure the timelier reporting to prosecuting agencies. The laboratory recognizes that, aside from DRUGS, units such as the Evidence Control Unit (ECU) and the Case Management Unit (CMU) will have their processes also be evaluated for possible improvements; changes may result in the modification of current laboratory practices or training programs.
The laboratory understands the benefit of working with key stakeholders, such as district attorneys and submitting agencies, and with our parent agency, the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) to help identify potential contributing factors that may hamper the current process or impede effective communications. LSS will assist MSPCL in identifying keys areas that to address in order to better perform our services.
The MSPCL has seen prior success in employing Lean Six Sigma concepts in its Forensic Biology Section, improving the efficiency and output of the Criminalistics and DNA units. DRUGS seeks to add similar concepts and improvements to benefit our customers. There are at least three identified areas of need. These include: the development of a structured case assignment system, an optimized workflow for case processing, and a refined case review system to conduct case reviews in a timely manner to enable quicker reporting.
If successful, we expect to obtain helpful, practicable and long-lasting workflows which will enable MSPCL to consistently provide quality drug analyses throughout the Commonwealth.