Backlog of drug testing due to new opioid warnings

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The opioid epidemic has changed the way law enforcement does their job. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The opioid epidemic has changed the way law enforcement does their job. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Most agencies, including the Department of Public Safety, stopped field testing when the DEA and CDC sent out warnings about opioid potency. Most agencies, including the Department of Public Safety, stopped field testing when the DEA and CDC sent out warnings about opioid potency.
We don't want a car to drive by and blow something up or wind catch up and they accidentally come in contact with fentanyl," said Col. Frank Milstead, head of DPS. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) We don't want a car to drive by and blow something up or wind catch up and they accidentally come in contact with fentanyl," said Col. Frank Milstead, head of DPS. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The opioid epidemic has changed the way law enforcement does its job.

Most agencies, including the Department of Public Safety, stopped field testing when the DEA and CDC sent out warnings about opioid potency.

[READ MORE: State health officials release opioid action plan]

We don't want the troopers to get it on them. We don't want a car to drive by and blow something up or wind catch up and they accidentally come in contact with fentanyl," said Col. Frank Milstead, head of DPS.

The drugs are now tested in a lab. And that's causing problems.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Opioid crisis in Arizona]

There's a backlog of about 2,000 cases.

"Anything that takes us more than 30 days, we call a backlog. Right now we're at about 90 days," said Milstead.

To catch up, labs no longer follow the much more involved testing procedures. Instead, they'll use rapid field test method law enforcement has been using for so long. Only now it's happening in a more controlled environment with all the protections of a state crime lab.

[RELATED: Opioid overdose deaths increased in Arizona this summer]

"Where we were doing 400 cases in two weeks, we are now doing 400 cases in two days. So we believe by April 1 we will be back to a 30-day turnaround," said Milstead.

He said no complaints have been filed regarding cases being delayed. If the courts need results faster, testing can be expedited.

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