Erie Co. Toxicology lab flooded with new cases

Posted at 6:20 AM, Dec 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-01 06:20:06-05

Erie County Chief Toxicologist Christine Giffin says the complex testing she conducts is a far car from what you see on television.

“I’d love for us to be like NCIS where you can put it on one instrument and it can tell us all of the information," Giffin told 7 Eyewitness News. “But it doesn’t work that way.”

In 2014, the lab on Kensington Avenue processed close to 1,000 cases. On any given day technicians and toxicologists examine and determine the toxicity of specimen for cases ranging from DUIs to drug facilitated sexual assaults.

But with an increase of complex designer and a rise in opioid drug use, Giffin and the staff are finding it harder to keep up.

“We were getting most of our cases out within 30-60 days,” Giffin said. "Now we are more along the lines of 60 to 90."

The additional cases and back log is causing a ripple effect.

“Well recently in the Kane case it took a while for test results to materialize,” Buffalo Attorney Paul Cambria told 7 Eyewitness News. “When we’d enquire about that we’d be waiting told we’re waiting for the lab, we’re waiting for the lab.”

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says adding more staff, specifically a quality assurance specialist, will help alleviate the large workload. Burstein is requesting the salary for the position be included in the 2016 county budget.

“Having this one additional position will greatly free up the technician and our laboratory director to do the work that they were really assigned to do in the first place,” Burstein said.

The Erie County legislature is expected to vote on the budget on Tuesday.




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