Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $279,854)
The goal of this grant is improvement of coroner services in Charleston County. Receiving National Association of Medical Examiner (NAME) accreditation, reducing the delivery time of toxicology results, and improving the quality and timeliness of regional opioid investigations are objectives designed to achieve this goal.
The Charleston County Coroner’s Office will review accreditation requirements, write, and review policies to ensure compliance, submit all required documentation, arrange for the accreditation audit visit, complete annual reports and manage/review case management data to ensure continued compliance with accreditation standards. NAME accreditation will prove compliance with national industry standards. This provides assurance to contracted forensic pathologists who conduct autopsies at the Charleston County Coroner’s Office, neighboring counties that also use the personnel and facilities for autopsies, and the tax-paying citizens of the community served.
To decrease the time between submission of opioid toxicology samples and delivery of results, the Coroner’s Office will test the quantitative and qualitative accuracy of automated immunoassay technology in the Coroner’s Office setting. This will reveal the utility of the adjunctive tool when used in conjunction with traditional laboratory-based toxicology reports. Toxicology results will be received in a timelier manner which gives law enforcement and national stakeholder databases the critical, preliminary information on exact drugs associated with overdose fatalities needed to detect spikes in opioid activity.
To improve regional efforts in fatal opioid overdose investigations, the Coroner’s Office will assist five neighboring counties in the use of shared case management software, which will improve inter-county opioid investigation protocols as well as permit faster uploading of data to national stakeholder databases. More accurate regional opioid death statistics will be provided to local, state, and federal agencies that analyze opioid-related mortality rates.
This project improves the Coroner’s Office operations, whose mission is to determine the full truth of the circumstances surrounding a death while serving as a representative of the decedents and an advocate to the survivors. Additionally, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies will be able to better investigate spikes in opioid activity to intervene in opioid hotspots to help save the lives of the 1,107,183 citizens of Charleston County and the five neighboring counties.