Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $496,478)
The Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH) receives approximately 20,000 specimens annually for alcohol and/or drug testing. Most specimens are submitted by local law enforcement agencies for traffic safety and other motor vehicle matters in support of Wisconsin’s impaired driving laws. However, the WSLH receives approximately 3,000 specimens annually to aid in death investigations. The proliferation of novel psychoactive substance (NPS) casework, specifically cases that include fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, continues to burden the WSLH and the state of Wisconsin. The nuanced changes to the chemical structure of these NPS has created issues with current laboratory methods. The lack of upgraded instrumentation to analyze cases involving NPS not only increases the turnaround time, it also degrades the quality of data reported to submitters and stakeholders. Specifically, turnaround time is compromised due to the need for additional testing strategies including research, development, and validation of new approaches. Data quality is inhibited as NPS analytes go undetected and therefore unreported. Furthermore NPS may interfere with detection of other analytes and result in specimens being labeled as “invalid”.
The proposed project will significantly improve the quality and timeliness of the WSLH Forensic Toxicology Section’s analytical services. The WSLH proposes to acquire, validate, and implement casework on a state-of-the-art instrumentation in the Forensic Toxicology Section to address NPS trends in combination with the evolving opioid epidemic. The new instrumentation will allow existing staff to implement more selective, sensitive, and efficient methodology for the identification and quantification of emerging NPS, including synthetic opioids and synthetic cannabinoids.
The impact of the proposed project directly supports comprehensive, real-time information collection, analysis, and dissemination. Performance metrics captured include: the average number of days to process a sample, the average number of backlogged cases, and the number of distinct drugs of abuse quantified in the scope of work at the beginning and the end of the grant period. The instrument infrastructure proposed will allow the WSLH to quickly generate and disseminate highly sensitive and specific drug analysis data to submitting Wisconsin agencies and external stakeholders such as NFLIS. The proposed capacity enhancements will position the WSLH to respond quickly and efficiently to current and future substance abuse and drug epidemics.