Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment lab suspends blood-alcohol testing July 3

Former employee critized training, storage

DENVER - The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is suspending blood-alcohol and blood-drug testing performed at its toxicology laboratory effective today.

The suspension comes four weeks after a report was publicly released that said a former employee had made allegations that workers were not properly trained and samples were not properly stored.

The state toxicology lab will complete the work on samples currently in the testing process but unprocessed specimens and new specimens will be rerouted to another lab for processing, state officials said.

"We will have an independent laboratory retest approximately 800 blood-alcohol samples to verify the state toxicology lab's blood-alcohol test results," said the department's former executive director, Dr. Chris Urbina. "We take seriously the concerns from law enforcement, public defenders and the public -- and this is the best way for us to verify the accuracy of testing at the toxicology lab."

CDPHE said while the samples are done by outside labs, the Association of Public Health Laboratories will audit the state toxicology laboratory's procedures.

"Lab staff members will continue their training on updated standard operating procedures and industry best practices," officials said.

The toxicology lab’s testing equipment will be also be inspected and recalibrated, the CDPHE said.

Only the blood-alcohol and blood drug testing is being suspended. All other services provided by the state lab will continue. Those services include screening for newborn illnesses, breath alcohol testing for law enforcement, disease testing, water and air testing.

-- Changes at the state lab --

Since the report became public, DCPHE said changes have been implemented.

Officials said all refrigerators with blood-alcohol samples are now locked and the staff is receiving more training.

A supervisor criticized in the report has retired, Urbina said.

Urbina is also leaving. Urbina announced his resignation less than one week after the report became public.

Urbina said he is leaving to explore other opportunities.

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