October 26, 2017

Shaheen, Hassan Introduce Legislation to Address Heroin and Fentanyl Backlog at Police Forensic Labs and Medical Examiner Offices

**Increase in heroin, fentanyl and synthetic drug use has put enormous strain on New Hampshire’s Forensic Lab and Medical Examiner Office, and the police departments that depend on it**

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced legislation to help the State Police Forensic Laboratory and Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New Hampshire and their counterparts across the country that are dealing with dramatically increased demands and serious backlogs as a result of the opioid epidemic. This legislation would establish a grant program to help forensic labs and medical examiner offices around the country keep pace with their caseloads. Senators Shaheen and Hassan introduced the Combating the Heroin Epidemic Through Forensic Drug Testing Act of 2017 earlier this year, but have revised the legislation to ensure that medical examiners are also eligible for funding.

“The New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner are indispensable to our state’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic,” said Shaheen. “Forensic  backlogs can delay law enforcement efforts to shut down drug trafficking networks and get drugs off our streets. It’s critical that New Hampshire’s forensic professionals working tirelessly on the front lines of this crisis have the resources they need, and our legislation would provide much needed funding to ease the enormous strain of increasing backlogs.”

“As we continue to bring an all-hands-on-deck approach to combatting the fentanyl, heroin, and opioid crisis, we must support the critical work of the New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory and Office of the Chief Medical Examiner,” Senator Hassan said. “We cannot afford to let testing backlogs hinder law enforcement’s tireless efforts to bring drug traffickers to justice and get dangerous opioids off our streets, and this legislation is an important step in ensuring that state forensic labs and medical examiners have the resources they need to effectively combat this epidemic.”

New Hampshire’s forensic lab takes in 750 cases per month, on average, yet only has the capacity to complete roughly 600 of those cases. The Senators’ legislation would authorize $10 million per year through the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program to be used for police forensic labs and medical examiner offices to pay for staff, equipment and overtime. The legislation also allows police departments to use these grants for additional field testing equipment. Sen. Shaheen first introduced this legislation in the 114th Congress.

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