A new crime lab in Springfield will be another tool for the community to fight the heroin epidemic and protect first responders, according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s drug testing lab is now open in the Public Safety Building on North Fountain Avenue in downtown Springfield, where the Springfield Police Division and Clark County Sheriff’s Office are located.
“Fighting the drug epidemic has been and continues to be one of our top priorities in the attorney general’s office,” DeWine said while at the new lab on Tuesday.
Scientists will use new equipment to test drugs, he said, to help law enforcement and prosecutors get results more quickly and catch drug traffickers.
A crime lab was housed in the same location until mid 2015, Springfield Police Chief Steve Moody said, when the scientist who worked there retired.
That’s when Moody reached out to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to ask about a remodel of the lab that would focus on drug testing, DeWine said.
The city of Springfield has invested about $195,000 into the lab so far, Moody said, with the purchase of new technology and equipment for the lab and a down payment for the salary of a new scientist.
Much of the money came from a drug law enforcement trust fund, he said.
Clark County contributed about $78,000 to remodel the space and add security, Clark County Administrator Jennifer Hutchinson said.
“Having the chemist right here allows the prosecutors to call, walk right across the hall and speak with them directly about individual cases,” Moody said.
And that means the prosecutor’s office can press charges against more drug traffickers, Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson said. A suspected drug trafficker can only be held for a few days in jail without charges, Wilson said, and drug test results are needed to press charges.
“It will allow us to more quickly go after the drug traffickers and take their cases into court to hold them accountable for the poison they’re putting out on our streets,” Wilson said.
Faster test results will also tell law enforcement and other community members what compounds are circulating in the community. It’s important information for police officers and firefighters, Moody said, because many of the drugs available now can cause an overdose with just a touch.
“It’s a dangerous situation from where we were simply five years ago,” he said.
Hospital staff could use the information to treat patients, Moody said, and drug treatment facilities, like McKinley Hall, could use the information to help addicts.
The lab will start accepting samples immediately, DeWine said, with plans to start testing later this week.
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