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1. What is the current participation level in the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS)?

NFLIS is a program of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Diversion Control Division that has been in operation since 1997. For over 20 years, NFLIS has systematically collected results of drug chemistry analyses, and other related information, from cases analyzed by state, local, and Federal forensic laboratories (NFLIS-Drug). These laboratories analyze substances secured in law enforcement operations across the country. As of September 2021, NFLIS-Drug includes voluntary participation from 50 state systems and 108 local or municipal laboratories/laboratory systems, representing a total of 283 individual laboratories. The NFLIS program is in the process of expanding the scope of data collection to include public and private toxicology laboratory data on toxicological findings from antemortem and postmortem drug testing (NFLIS-Tox) and medical examiner and coroner office data regarding deaths in which drugs were identified (NFLIS-MEC). NFLIS-Tox recruitment is currently underway with over 80 laboratories signing on to participate. NFLIS-MEC recruitment will begin in January 2022.

2. Why should I participate in NFLIS?

NFLIS participants provide valuable information about the impact that drugs and substance abuse have on public health. Data from participants allow a greater understanding of drug mortality, novel psychoactive substances, drug frequency trends, levels of drugs involved in cause of death, and laboratory or office methods and practices.

Participants have access to a secured, component-specific section of the NFLIS website that allows use of an interactive data query system (DQS) to generate aggregate data at the state, regional, or national level. This aggregate-level data can then be downloaded in report format.

3. Why am I being asked to participate in NFLIS-Tox or NFLIS-MEC when I already participate in NFLIS-Drug?

If your laboratory conducts toxicology drug testing, DEA invites you to extend your NFLIS participation in the NFLIS-Tox component. We are also expanding our data collection to include toxicological findings from medical examiner/coroner offices and invite you to extend your participation in NFLIS-Drug to include NFLIS-MEC.

4. Who is eligible to participate in NFLIS?

NFLIS participants are either a drug chemistry laboratory (NFLIS-Drug), toxicology laboratory (NFLIS-Tox), medical examiner, or coroner's office (NFLIS-MEC), or an organization that includes a combination of the three NFLIS components. To be an eligible drug chemistry laboratory, you must perform analyses on drugs seized by law enforcement officers in the United States. To be an eligible toxicology laboratory, you must perform drug toxicology testing (forensic or clinical toxicology, or both). To be an eligible medical examiner or coroner, you must perform at least one of the following duties: conduct investigations to determine a cause and manner of death; sign death certificates; or determine when autopsies should be done, even if your office sends the deceased to another location for an autopsy.

5. How do I become a NFLIS participant?

To become a NFLIS participant, please e-mail and let us know that you are interested in becoming a part of the program. In your e-mail, state which NFLIS components your laboratory or office represents. If your laboratory or office uses a laboratory information management system (LIMS), please include the name of that LIMS in your e-mail.

Once we receive your e-mail, a NFLIS staff member will respond to your e-mail and will provide a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that lists the NFLIS data elements. When your organization and the DEA agree on the MOU language, both parties will sign the MOU. Once this is accomplished, a NFLIS staff member will assist your laboratory or office in preparing and sending a test data file to the DEA server to ensure that the reporting process will work properly for your laboratory or office. After the test file is accepted, NFLIS staff will then work with your laboratory or office to develop an automated reporting script for your LIMS or other reporting system to assist with reporting.

6. Why does DEA require a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for NFLIS participation?

A MOU is a nonbinding agreement between the DEA and a participating laboratory or office that outlines each party's responsibilities. DEA's intent is to fully inform those that choose to voluntarily participate in NFLIS about what the DEA will collect. Before DEA can begin accepting data from your laboratory or office, an MOU must be in place. Once the MOU is signed, NFLIS will work with your laboratory or office to assist with NFLIS reporting.

7. Why does DEA need to know what LIMS I use?

DEA's goal is to make reporting as easy as possible for participating laboratories or offices. NFLIS has worked with many LIMS providers to develop automated reporting routines. If DEA has previously worked with your LIMS provider, DEA can ensure that the appropriate technical representatives are available for your questions. If you use a LIMS that is new for DEA, DEA can initiate conversations with that LIMS provider about developing a reporting script for NFLIS reporting. Alternatively, DEA has also successfully worked with in-house management systems not part of a vendor LIMS to make reporting possible and successful.

8. How often will I submit data?

As a NFLIS participant, DEA asks that your facility provide a set of 10–15 core data items each month. A key goal of NFLIS is to minimize effort for our participants; therefore, DEA will provide support to help leverage data abstraction and automation functions with respect to your information system.

9. Are the data secure?

Yes. Data are housed on DEA's secure network.

10. Is this a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)?

No, all data will remain confidential and we do not collect any personally identifiable information (PII).

11. Will users be able to tell which data came from my laboratory or office?

No. We will not release any laboratory or office specific data; only aggregate data similar to what is included in the NFLIS Publications

12. What will you do with the data?

The data you provide will allow the DEA to quickly identify and target new and emerging drugs of abuse. It will also provide information for use in drug scheduling actions. As more laboratories or offices participate in NFLIS-Tox and NFLIS-MEC, DEA will be able to report aggregated data in midyear and annual reports similar to those that have been generated by NFLIS-Drug using drug chemistry analyses data submitted by laboratories.

13. Who has access to the data?

Data are stored on a secure DEA network and access is restricted to select staff from the DEA and data management staff from the DEA's NFLIS contractor. By participating in NFLIS, you will have access to the participant section of the NFLIS website and will be able to use interactive queries to generate an abundance of helpful state, regional, and national data summaries and reports. This interactive query is known as the Data Query System (DQS) and can be found on the website. It is only available to NFLIS participants and select supporting organizations. A NFLIS-Drug DQS already exists for NFLIS-Drug participants. As NFLIS-Tox and NFLIS-MEC grow, a similar DQS will be created for these NFLIS components.