Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $252,509)
The New Hampshire Department of Justice (NH DOJ) is the State Administrating Agency authorized to administer U.S. Department of Justice Grant programs. NH DOJ is submitting the FY 2022 Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grant Program-Competitive application on behalf of the State of New Hampshire.
According to the most recent New Hampshire Drug Monitoring Initiative data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), 417 people died in 2020 from drug overdoses with 201 deaths already recorded as of September 16, 2021. These high number of deaths impact the workload on forensic services, making Coverdell Funding strategically important to the state.
OCME currently has only two pathologists employed, with one position vacant. This staffing shortage leads to pathologists taking on extra duties, creating an increase in backlog cases and an overall decreased efficiency.
Funding to the OCME will support costs related to an evidence technician, who is responsible for the inventory and control of all specimens and physical evidence of OCME autopsies and external exam cases. This grant will continue to support costs related to an office manager, whose position assists with necessary clerical duties. If awarded this funding, a planning analyst position will be funded that will include compiling and collecting data for drug overdose deaths for reporting purposes for the OCME. These positions are crucial in keeping the backlog of cases down and allowing pathologists to focus on the required autopsies.
This application seeks to fund needed training for staff from the New Hampshire State Forensic Laboratory (Forensic Laboratory). This training will help maintain certifications and ensure accurate and up to date testimony at legal proceeds regarding evidence processing.
The Forensic Laboratory is pursuing funding for tablets to contain and transfer data to the laboratory system and a fume hood for the Controlled Drug Unit that will allow safe handling and examining of items that are potentially laced with opioids or other controlled drugs.
Coverdell funding will support the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors certification maintenance costs for this laboratory to keep their accreditation.
The outcome of providing this funding to these only two established forensic laboratory systems that are capable of accreditation, would enhance the efficiency and accuracy of forensic services by increasing staffing, training, equipment, and technology to handle the increased workload and backlog of cases being faced by the state.