Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $296,966)
Problem statement - The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) continues to experience budgetary challenges and growing backlogs with about 8,500 cases received annually, limiting the improvement of forensic services, opioid-related continuing education of analysts, updating necessary software, and monitoring of opioid and non-opioid related storage areas. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) will continue to provide professional development for medical examiners - those physicians who investigate sudden, violent, and suspicious deaths - to meet national accreditation standards in forensic pathology. The opioid crisis has affected the OCME with nearly triple the number of drug intoxication deaths over the past 5+ years. How award will be used - DESPP will use funds for professional development, supplies, software renewals to analyze evidence, training, and reimbursement of annual dues/certifications of staff. OCME will use funds for continued staff professional development and to support the increased demands on the agency due to the opioid crisis: increased, timely, and expanded toxicology testing, and opioid-related transportation costs. Outcome - DESPP will quicken dissemination of information to investigating agencies, continue compliance with ANAB standards in professional development, upgrade and renew technology/equipment, monitor storage of evidence 24 hours a day, and continue competency in the forensic sciences. OCME will maintain national accreditation and support professional development of the staff including meeting national turnaround-times for toxicology and autopsy reports. The funding for laboratory testing will allow us to expand the panel for drugs that are detected and improve the turnaround-time of testing. These will improve the quality of death certificates, provide stakeholders (police, families, public health investigators) with more timely, higher quality, and broader detection of opioids and new designer drugs.