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County health puts in request for OD analyzer

By Joanne Beck
Paul Pettit with Gregg Torrey

Toxicology reports for overdoses can take a long time — a year or more — to complete, and Public Health Director Paul Pettit would like to expedite the process, he says.

Pettit proposed the purchase of a $44,500 multistage analyzer, which would provide much faster toxicology results from autopsies for any of 21 different drug types, including fentanyl and other types of fentanyl derivatives, he said. 

Other newer drugs are continuously being added to the list, such as the latest one to hit the streets, the xylazine profile, he said.

“Essentially, this is a piece of equipment that allows us to have somewhat real-time toxicology reports from overdose deaths. So when we send folks to the (medical examiner’s) office, as you guys are all well aware, we get them back a year later, 18 months, we still have one outstanding from 2021 that we're waiting on the toxicology reports and the final autopsy from,” Pettit said Monday during the Human Services meeting. “So what this analyzer does is allows us to essentially get that real-time toxicology, and it can be done either through your analysis of blood or saliva sample, where we'll be able to run that sample as soon as we get it from the M.E.’s when they go in for an autopsy. 

"And that allows us to see exactly what was in the profile, kind of similar to a toxicology report," he said. "It will give us a better snapshot of what, unfortunately, led to their death, potentially the overdose.”

The analysis is for internal use only, he said, and is not for public knowledge.  As opioid use and its related effects draw more of the Public Health Department’s attention, the picture has become more clear that Pettit and his staff are homing in on the who, what and why more than ever. 

And instead of having to wait a year or more to learn about what types of drugs are out there, “we can get a better idea what’s going on potentially on our streets, if we’re seeing a cluster of overdose deaths and what is actually in the water in the system,” he said.

Pettit and the purchasing director reviewed the only bid that was submitted. They recommended accepting a bid of $44,500 for the analyzer from Random Laboratories-US. This expense is within the budget, according to the resolution, and is funded by The Healing Communities grant.

Members of the Human Services Committee asked various questions about how this equipment would be used and for what purpose. The bottom line is that it would offer a more immediate answer as to what drugs were involved in the overdose that led to the person’s death.

The committee approved the resolution, which will go onto the Ways & Means Committee and finally to the full Legislature for a vote.

Photo: File photo by Joanne Beck of Paul Pettit and Legislator Gregg Torrey.

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