THC Breathalyzer Project
Dr. Nicholas Lovrich, Regents Professor Emeritus, and his collaborator Dr. Herb Hill, Regents Professor of Chemistry, began working on a tool for law enforcement officers confronting the challenge of drug-impaired (illicit and prescription) driving back in 2010. As it pertains to testing for alcohol, the police have a portable breath test (PBT) device to rely upon to assist them in their decisions about transporting detained individuals to a stationary breath testing device for the collection of court-accepted evidence of blood alcohol level (BAC) at time of arrest. In the case of drug-impaired driving, however, the officers have no comparable device to assist them in making their decisions regarding requesting a judicial search warrant on probable cause of impairment for the taking of blood from suspected impaired drivers. The field device Nick and Herb are working on with Chemistry doctoral student Jessica Tufariello will be able to detect the presence of THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis) in the breath at time of the traffic stop, and thereby assist officers in making decisions about further actions to be taken in cases of suspected cannabis-impaired driving. In time, the device being developed in the Hill Lab will be capable of signaling the presence of other impairing drugs such as cocaine, meth, opioids, pain medications and the like along with THC. The project has received support from the WSU Alcohol and Drug Abuse pilot study grant program, the Chemring Detection Systems Corporation of North Carolina (which produces a hand-held differential ion mobility spectrometer currently being used for the detection of hazardous materials, biological warfare agents, and illicit drugs), and has received support from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, the Washington State Patrol, the Traffic Safety Committee of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, and Region X of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a legislative proposal for state funding to accelerate testing and development. The state’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund has invited an application from the project for their “Proof of Concept” grant program which is due in early March. A prototype of the device will likely be subjected to preliminary field testing in June in Spokane and Whitman Counties with the active assistance of the Spokane Police Department, the Spokane County Sheriff, the City of Spokane Valley Police Department, the Whitman County Sheriff, and Pullman Police Department.
Bullying Prevention Pilot Studies
Maureen Erickson and Drs. Lois James and Nicholas Lovrich are collaborating on a proposal for the pilot testing of a bullying prevention program in middle and high school settings in Washington, and potentially elsewhere if promising results are demonstrated. Based on five years of observations of the operation of school-based truancy intervention sessions in public school districts throughout Spokane County, the incidence of bullying – despite the existence of programs and policies designed to prevent and sanction it and instructional staff efforts to address it – continues to be high. This collaboration has resulted in a proposal to be presented to several school districts and school administrators requesting the benefit of our reflection on our experience we have had in this important area of school environment safety. We have conceptualized a routine activities theory-based approach operationalized through a NOT IN OUR HOUSE culture-building effort featuring the training of a peer-guardian cadre within schools who would address this archetypical crime of opportunity in the school setting. In our preliminary discussions with school officials, counselors and teachers, we have been encouraged to work with two or three schools to pilot test the idea and seek grant funding for documenting outcomes and learning from the process for successful replication elsewhere.