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New crime lab in Springfield clears backlog of drug cases

A new crime lab in Springfield has led to the clearing of a back log of drug cases, so many that prosecutors recently had to hold a special grand jury session just for those cases.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation opened a drug testing lab in May in the Public Safety Building where the Springfield Police Division and Clark County Sheriff’s Office are located in downtown.

RELATED: Clark County Jail doubles inmates in drug treatment program

Chemists have used the new equipment since it opened to test drugs. That’s helped law enforcement and prosecutors get results more quickly, Springfield Police Capt. Mike Varner said.

“The turnaround for cases has decreased, as far as getting the lab results back,” he said. “So we can move forward with prosecutions for drug cases.”

Before it could take up to a year to get evidence back, Varner said. Drugs would be sent to a statewide lab in London, about 30 minutes away.

READ MORE: Clark County sees another big spike of at least 40 overdoses in 5 days

“Drugs are sent to the lab because when we file charges against someone who is suspected of possessing or selling drugs, we need to know what actually they are in possession of or selling,” Varner said. “We are actually able to get the cases through faster and if someone needs to testify in court, they are just down the hall.”

That makes it for Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson to file charges sooner. His office scheduled a special grand jury on Oct. 24 just for drug cases, hearing 33 lower-level drug cases.

“There were so many cases we couldn’t handle on a normal grand jury day,” he said. “We had to schedule a special day that was set for nothing but drug cases.”

The prosecutor still has 14 more drug cases to present to a grand jury, Wilson said.

DETAILS: Petition asks Springfield leaders to charge people who overdose

Criminal charges are important, Wilson said, because often addicts needed to be forced into drug treatment programs by the court to get help. Several people on the indictment list also have overdosed recently, he said.

A record A record 97 people have died from drug overdoses so far this year in Clark County.

“They are continuing out there putting their lives in danger and we are now able to get them into the system and hopefully push them or force them into treatment with the teeth of court action hanging over their head,” Wilson said. “We are moving those cases through the system and we are going to force them into treatment with the consequences of jail, or potentially prison, if they don’t do what they need to do.”

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