The state drug lab at the heart of the tainted evidence scandal was not accredited, it was revealed during a state legislature hearing on Nov. 28, according to local state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez.
Accreditation is a process where an outside agency certifies an organization as meeting industry standards.
The state drug lab scandal involves former chemist Annie Dookhan allegedly mishandling thousands of drug samples at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute at 305 South St. Dookhan’s alleged actions have put numerous convictions in doubt and she is facing several criminal charges. The state drug lab was closed during the summer.
Sánchez said legislators learned a lot from state Department of Public Health (DPH) officials about the procedures at the Hinton Institute during the hearing, including that the drug lab was not accredited. Asked why it lacked accreditation, Sánchez responded, “That’s probably the biggest question out there.”
Sánchez said there was also a lot of discussion of why supervisors didn’t question the amount of work Dookhan did, but said there were no real answers. Dookhan had a caseload significantly higher than her co-workers. Sánchez did point out that the people who supervised her no longer work at the Hinton Institute.
The representative, who called the hearing a “good first step,” said many answers cannot be answered until the criminal investigations are over. Sánchez expected another hearing would be held this week.
“Anytime we have folks talk candidly about what is going on it is helpful,” said Sánchez. “But there’s still a lot out there that we can’t know until the investigations are completed.”
State Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby also revealed during the hearing that the 17 other labs at the Hinton Institute have been reviewed by an independent agency.
“The review, conducted by the Association of Public Health Laboratories, found that the Quality Assurance program is fully functional in all laboratories and is consistent with accepted standards of good laboratory practice,” said Bigby, according to a transcript on the state DPH website.
Corrected version: This version has been updated to give the correct name of Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby.