WSP dealing with more cases, causing delays in the lab

WSP dealing with more cases, causing delays in the lab

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- Washington State Patrol (WSP) says their toxicology lab is backed up, they say they are 3,500 cases behind.

Many are wondering what is causing the backlog.

WSP Public Information Officer Kyle Moore said the lab is getting more cases and they don't have enough scientists in the lab to run the tests.

Moore said the number of cases submitted to the lab has increased by almost 3,000 since 2015. He said that means some cases have to take priority over others.

"You have to prioritize and that prioritization changes every single day," Moore said. "What we do is the toxicology lab works closely with attorneys to identify cases that need to be prioritized especially when they have speedy trials coming up court dates set."

Other cases such as the ones Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins deals with tend to fall on the back burner.

Hawkins said drug and alcohol tests from the state used to take four to six weeks, but now it is taking multiple months.

"Especially if we have a case where we suspect that it may be a drug overdose or we need to know what drugs were there, it takes us four to five months to complete the case," Hawkins said.

Hawkins said the backlog is delaying his cases. Last year, he said he saw around 650 cases and almost 200 of them required toxicology tests. He said not all of his cases are impacted by delays but the cases that are, he sees it affecting family members who are waiting death certificates of their loved ones.

"So you have citizens and people with families that are waiting for that so they can close properties, insurance," he said. "Sometimes insurance won't settle, they won't do anything until they get that information back."

Many departments throughout the valley said the solution is to get more people in the lab to process toxicology tests.

WSP said they just hired six more scientists to try and help reduce the problem.

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