Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $296,966)
The New Mexico Department of Public Safety (NMDPS) is seeking $296,966.00 in federal funding from the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program to facilitate the improvement of the quality and timeliness of statewide forensic science and medical examiner/coroner's officer services. The NMDPS's FY21 Paul Coverdell Base Formula Projects to Eliminate Forensic Backlog and Provide Forensic Training for New Mexico project will directly impact the participating New Mexico forensic laboratories' ability to provide training to forensic laboratory staff and to work toward the elimination of forensic case backlogs. The NMDPS, as State Administering Agency for the State of New Mexico, submits this proposal on behalf of the four (4) partnering labs serving the state of New Mexico’s forensic service needs, including the NMDPS Forensic Laboratories Bureau (FLB), the Albuquerque Police Metropolitan Forensic Science Center Evidence Unit (APD Crime Lab), the New Mexico Department of Health Scientific Laboratory Division (SLD), and the University of New Mexico’s Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI). Members of this working alliance meet annually to identify joint priorities that culminate in the Statewide Forensic Science Services Plan for Forensic Laboratory Enhancements. The goals and objectives of the partners in this formulary grant proposal reflect the findings and recommendations of the 2021 Statewide Forensic Science Services Plan. Together, through a collaborative effort, the partners have identified the following joint priorities within the 2021 Statewide Forensic Science Services Plan for forensic laboratory enhancements. The priorities include 1) maintaining qualified staff to enhance New Mexico’s capacity to manage the backlog and expected future increases in forensic cases. 2) support the training and education required for (re)certification of forensic examiners. 3) provide strategic overtime for current lab professionals to handle backlog cases, including those caused by increasing demand for services from rural municipalities across the state. 4) increase the SLD’s ability to validate for testing of more compounds and chemicals to better serve its stakeholders (including the OMI). 5) outsourcing toxicology testing to support accurate death certification and surveillance of new public health and public safety challenges to maintain accreditation and to reduce waiting times for families and law enforcement for thorough death investigation and certification.