Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $297,022)
The opioid crisis is a public health emergency that is eroding the quality of life for Alabama residents. In 2016, Alabama led the Nation in the number of per capita prescriptions for opioids with over 5 million prescriptions issued – which is equivalent to 1.2 prescriptions for every man, woman, and child in Alabama. People are dying and families are being devastated. Alabama has experienced over 5,000 overdose deaths in the last decade alone, with significant increases year over year. Based on these alarming statistics, arguably no State has a greater need to address the opioid epidemic than Alabama. As the sole provider of forensic testing services to over 450+ law enforcement agencies throughout Alabama, the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences (ADFS) has also experienced a dramatic increase in the request for Forensic Toxicology and Drug Chemistry testing services as a result of the opioid epidemic in this State. The Forensic Toxicology section of ADFS provides comprehensive testing in all death cases that originate from all three (3) ADFS morgue facilities throughout Alabama. Additionally, the Toxicology and Drug Chemistry sections provide comprehensive testing to law enforcement on all pre-ingestion (powders, tablets, edibles, etc.) and post-ingestion (blood and bodily fluid) related cases associated with criminal possession, distribution, and trafficking charges, as well as DUI (alcohol) and DUID (drug) cases from across the State. There remains a real and desperate need for the Toxicology and Drug Chemistry sections to balance incorporating advances in technology, the adoption of test methods for new and dangerous emerging drugs in Alabama, and identifying new and more efficient laboratory processes to enhance capacity and streamline the testing process associated with opioid cases, so the quality and timeliness of forensic services can be realized over current laboratory operations. In preparation for the FY21 Paul Coverdell NFSIA-Formula Grant Program, ADFS conducted a comprehensive gap analysis of its laboratory operations, and plans to utilize Federal funds from this award to purchase and implement targeted instrumentation within the Toxicology, Drug Chemistry, Death Investigation, and Firearms and Tool Mark sections to enhance overall laboratory capacity, improve the quality and turnaround time of forensic casework, and position ADFS to better serve all 450+ law enforcement agencies throughout Alabama.