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N.H. Crime Lab Continues to See Backlog in Drug Cases

Paige Sutherland/NHPR
These are the lethal dosages of heroin and fentanyl. Photo taken at the State Police Crime Lab.

The effort to end the state’s opioid crisis involves many players: lawmakers, treatment and recovery providers, police and a often overlooked piece…the state’s crime lab.

With drug overdose deaths  rising, the state’s crime lab analysts have their hands full.

Roughly 3,500 drug cases wait to be analyzed at the State Police Crime lab in Concord. Some date as far back as last year.

For Tim Pifer, the lab’s director, the backlog breaks down like this:
“If we were to receive no additional cases on an average of 550 cases analyzed each month, we are talking about 7 months just to clear up the backlog,” Pifer said Thursday.

Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR
Currently at the State Police Crime Lab there's a backlog of 3,500 drug cases.

Pifer said a majority of these cases involve fentanyl – a much more potent opioid. 

“They literally are injecting themselves with a loaded gun – they don’t know what they are taking and obviously in many cases, they don’t come back from that,” he said.

Also contributing to this pileup? The state’s new policy treating fatal overdoses as crime scenes. It's a policy many state lawmakers such as Governor Maggie Hassan say is vital in helping to cut off supply.


Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR
Gov. Maggie Hassan was given a tour of the State Police Crime Lab by lab director Tim Pifer.

"We really want to go after these dealers, so people know that all dealers who try to do business in New Hampshire will be held accountable and again the efforts of this crime lab are essential to that fight," Hassan said after touring the lab on Thursday.

Pifer says over the past year they've received grant money and state funding to help pay for the added overtime but hope to add two more drug analysts to the payroll next year.

New Hampshire is projected to have roughly 480 overdose deaths in 2016, which is an uptick from last year.

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