New toxicology machine to benefit coroner’s office overdose practices

More than half a million dollars’ worth of federal grant money has been poured into the Lowcountry to fight the opioid epidemic.
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 3:39 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2023 at 10:20 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - More than half a million dollars’ worth of federal grant money has been poured into the Lowcountry to fight the opioid epidemic.

The Charleston County Coroner’s Office has been awarded $625,212.00 in grant funds provided by the Lowcountry Healthcare Coalition through a grant from the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR).

That money in part has purchased a point of care toxicology analyzer. The analyzer will provide immediate drug testing results and real-time data to the coroner’s office, law enforcement and medical providers. This information will be used to impact the opioid epidemic with real-time data as it relates to fatal drug overdoses.

“So currently, if we are conducting an autopsy, we’ll take a blood sample and we send it off to a forensic lab, and it will take us six to eight weeks. To get those results back,” O’Neal explains.

In less than half an hour, using less than a milliliter of blood, the new RANDOX machine can scan for traces of 21 drugs. Charleston Coroner Bobbi Jo O’Neil says the technology is revolutionary.

“So forensic science and technology has changed the way the coroner’s and medical legal death investigators across the country practice. We rely on forensic technology that’s current and up to date, in order to provide real data to families who are looking for answers to law enforcement who’s trying to solve crimes. It is the wave of the future and we’re just really glad to be a part of it,” O’Neal says.

Officials hope this information can inform them quickly and help prevent more drug related deaths when they find a problem area or a laced distributed batch.

O’Neal says the machine will serve a few purposes.

“I think this is a tool in our toolbox. You know, it is another piece of information that we’re able to use in order to determine cause and manner death, to provide information to families and again to provide information to the community. So, it is the community’s piece of equipment here. Yes, it’s housed in the coroner’s office, but this is to benefit our community,” she explains.

This is a tri-county effort and O’Neal says this partnership will help Dorchester and Berkeley officials who can come use the machine as needed.