Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $414,277)
The Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center (Center) serves as the Crime Laboratory and Medical Examiner’s Office for Sedgwick County, Kansas. The Center provides autopsy services to agencies within Sedgwick County and 20 other counties in the region, including comprehensive post-mortem toxicology testing. The Center employs 41 scientists, medical professionals, and administrative staff members. Approximately 17% of the state’s population resides in Sedgwick County, however 40% of Kansas violent crimes and 32% of the state’s murders occur in there.
The Center is currently experiencing a much greater backlog than recommended by accreditation standards. In 2021, less than 40% of autopsy cases were completed within 90 days of examination. The toxicology laboratory turn-around time, combined with a Deputy Coroner vacancy, places the Center’s accreditation at risk. The most significant and urgent budgetary challenge facing the RFSC is the replacement of end-of-life analytical equipment used in the toxicology laboratory that is no longer eligible for maintenance and support. Liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) is the primary instrumentation required for the confirmation and quantification of drugs and drug metabolites. However, all three LC-MS/MS instruments in use at the Center are now on limited support with impending obsolescence within 2 years. In conformance with accreditation requirements, such instrumentation cannot be used on casework once annual calibration and preventative maintenance are no longer possible. In order to mitigate accumulation of backlogged cases during the instrument validation period and assist with clearing the existing backlog, funding will also be used to send cases to private testing laboratories during the period of the project.
This project aims to replace one of the three critical instruments; thus, funding will be used to purchase one LC-MS/MS system. Funding will also be used to eliminate the existing backlog so that full accreditation can be achieved and maintained going forward. By eliminating the backlog, reducing the amount of time scientists spend troubleshooting, and increasing the operational periods of RFSC instrumentation, the project will serve to improve the turn-around time for both post- and ante-mortem testing in Sedgwick County and south central Kansas.