Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $224,835)
The New Mexico Department of Public Safety (NMDPS), as the State Administering Agency for Department of Justice funding, is applying to the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grant Program on behalf of New Mexicos, three forensic laboratories, and one medical investigators office as a collaborative effort to standardize our state and local laboratories. Following a state strategic plan for the forensic laboratory improvements, the grant funding will further the states ability to improve the quality and timeliness of forensic science and medical investigator services. In order to improve crime laboratories throughout the state of New Mexico, the Paul Coverdell Grant funds will be used for overtime, outsourcing, training and educational opportunities, supply needs, and laboratory certification fees. The New Mexico agencies working in this collaborative effort include New Mexico Department of Public Safety (DPS) Forensic Laboratory, Albuquerque Police Department (APD) Crime Laboratory, Department of Health Scientific Laboratories Division (SLD), and the University of New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI). With the grant funding, New Mexico laboratories will incorporate segments of the state strategic plan for the forensic laboratory improvements through recommendations to annually commit funding for training programs, to conduct overtime, to purchase necessary supplies to enhance efficiency and to outsource samples to nationally accredited laboratories for faster turnaround times in analyzing cases to address the continually mounting forensic backlogs. The forensic laboratories have a vital need for funding to meet gaps in providing education and certification for the forensic examiners. Forensic scientists must maintain their credentials as expert witnesses; remain current with the latest techniques as required by law enforcement investigators, state and local prosecutors and courts; and uphold and maintain laboratory accreditation guidelines. Outsourcing of samples has demonstrated to be a positive approach to reducing the backlog of cases not being analyzed within 30 days at the OMI. Overtime is assisting to maintain the backlogs from increasing at the DPS and SLD state laboratories.
The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI) is the centralized statewide medical examiner agency for the state of New Mexico. The Scientific Laboratory Division (SLD) of the state of New Mexico provides limited toxicology testing to the OMI due to being underfunded and understaffed. An out of state commercial toxicology reference laboratory, National Medical Services (NMS) is also utilized by the OMI. Funding is sought through this application for $140,933 from the competitive portion of the grant to help fund the cost of sending toxicology testing to an out of state commercial laboratory. The funding would allow for 898 cases to be referred to NMS for toxicology testing. The remaining cases would be funded through OMI operating funds.