Denver’s Office of the Medical Examiner (OME) Partners with Mexican Scientists to Combat the Opioid Crisis

Visit is part of a partnership between OME and U.S. State Department to advance study of forensics with focus on drug-related deaths ~

(DENVER)—The Denver Office of the Medical Examiner (OME), a division of the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE), hosted 16 Mexican scientists this week in the spirit of international cooperation between the United States and other countries in reducing the devastating impacts of fentanyl and other synthetic drugs in the Americas and across the world.

The visit is the first resulting from a 2023 partnership between the U.S. State Department and OME to provide training related to the investigation of fentanyl-related deaths in the Western Hemisphere. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) partnership provides a framework for the experienced team at OME to train, advise, and mentor foreign personnel, as well as to gain knowledge from other professionals in the region to provide a more robust approach to investigating drug-related deaths and the impact this can have on public health.

Denver’s Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. James Caruso said, “We are honored to host our colleagues from Mexico and to partner in the important work of reducing the consequences of the use of illicitly manufactured drugs like fentanyl and other synthetic opioids in our communities. This cross-border partnership represents a significant opportunity to promote scientific innovation and enhance public health and public safety.”

While at OME, the visiting scientists toured the state-of-the-art facility, including the autopsy suite and a rapid toxicology screening lab. OME experts leveraged their specialized skills and knowledge to educate the group about forensic death investigations and certification, drug testing, and drug data collection and interpretation.

The visit focused on how forensic investigations are used in public health interventions to guide policy and direct resources where they are needed most. To that end, representatives from Community & Behavioral Health, another division of DDPHE, gave presentations on city programs that address the broad social and economic factors that drive substance misuse and addiction. They highlighted programs such as STAR (Support Team Assistance Response), which provides civilian emergency response to help people in mental health distress, as well as the Wellness Winnie, Denver’s mobile unit offering support and resources to those in need. Both programs are meant to provide a pipeline into treatment for those who use substances.

During their visit to the U.S., the scientists visited the Forensic Investigation Research Station (FIRS) at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction where they studied forensic anthropology and decomposition. FIRS is an outdoor facility focused on the decomposition of human remains for research, education and service.

They will round out their trip by visiting Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, previously dubbed by the Drug Enforcement Administration as the “East Coast’s largest open-air drug market.” They’ll also tour NMS Labs which provides more than 2,500 drug tests available to medical examiners, among others.

OME hopes to host similar events with our forensic counterparts outside the U.S., as well as to send OME employees abroad to learn from other medical examiner offices on how they approach their work, the kinds of cases they are seeing, as well as to enhance collaboration between nations in fighting the devastating impacts of illicit fentanyl.

Comments

  1. Dr. Caruso once again is demonstrating his vision and dedication — going way beyond the exhausting work already encumbered upon his office, hoping to help those who are less fortunate. In providing many unnoticed services, he remains so very modest and unpretentious. Thank you Dr. Caruso. And thank you Mrs. Caruso for being a rock for your husband!!

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