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Cuts could cost county lab its accreditation

The Erie County Medical Examiner's Office is in danger of losing state and national accreditations unless lawmakers restore jobs cut from this year's budget.

The jobs, part of the county's Toxicology Laboratory, were eliminated as part of the 2011 budget proposed by County Executive Chris Collins and approved by the Legislature.

County officials have since learned that the budget cuts could result in the American Board of Forensic Toxicology and the State Commission on Forensic Science pulling its accreditations, an action that could diminish the laboratory's credibility in criminal investigations and prosecutions.

"It needs to be corrected and should never have happened in the first place," said Legislator Lynn M. Marinelli, D-Town of Tonawanda.

Marinelli said she warned the Collins administration and fellow lawmakers during budget deliberations that, while the Medical Examiner's Office is not a high-profile department, it does provide important community services.

The Collins administration, which has taken steps to restore the two jobs, as well as two others in the county Health Department, said the potential loss of accreditation was never raised when it first proposed the budget.

The administration also anticipated grant money to help fund one of the two toxicology jobs, something that never materialized.

"When you eliminate 410 positions to right-size county government and protect taxpayers, it is both reasonable and expected that minor adjustments will have to made once you are operating under the new budget," said Collins spokesman Grant Loomis.

Loomis also noted that the restoration of the four jobs is being accomplished within the Health Department's existing budget.


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