The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced on Friday that it will suspend blood alcohol and drug testing at the state lab effective July 3, 2013. The lab will complete the testing of samples currently in process. Untested samples originally sent to the state lab will be sent to a private lab for testing. In addition, the outgoing Executive Director of the Department announced that 800 blood alcohol samples were being retested by a private lab, AIT Labs, to verify the state lab’s results. The 800 samples are to be selected from test results completed during the last 12 months.
During the period that the state lab is suspending testing, the Association of Public Health Laboratories will be conducting an audit of the state lab’s procedures. Lab staff members will receive additional training and the lab’s equipment will be inspected to see that board of health certification standards are being met.
This announcement comes after the recent revelation that a workplace investigation conducted for the Department of Public Health and Environment resulted in a report on March 18th that was critical of the lab’s former supervisor who retired from the Department on May 31st. That report was not made available to defense attorneys until early June. The report identified problems with supervision and training of lab personnel, potential security lapses where samples were stored and possible bias by the former lab supervisor in favor of the prosecution.
The decision to indefinitely suspend blood alcohol and drug testing caps a tumultuous year at the Department of Health. Last year, we learned that a lab analyst improperly tested blood samples that resulted in inaccurate results being reported in approximately 170 tests. We requested records from the Department so we might uncover why those inaccurate results occurred. The Department of Health refused to release those records to us. The lab analyst involved with those tests complained about inadequate training and supervision when he worked at the lab. These complaints were corroborated by the recent workplace investigation. Unfortunately, the Department of Health still has not released information about what was done wrong that caused the inaccurate results last year. We also have to question why 800 samples are being retested. Have other problems occurred at the lab that haven’t been released? Hopefully, the audit will answer some of those questions.