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Rape Kit Backlog Shrinking, But Not Fast Enough For Pennsylvania Auditor General

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says state legislators could offer up $2 million from a $118 million cash surplus to eliminate the backlog of untested rape kits in the state.

report released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health Wednesday shows the backlog of untested rape kits is shrinking, but is still far from gone.

The report found there are 3,217 rape kits in the state waiting to be processed. Of those, 1,214 were more than a year old, which the state defines as backlogged.

That number is down from 1,908 in 2015, despite more police departments collecting sexual assault-related evidence and reporting it to the state.

A state law passed in 2016 requires all police departments in the state to send the evidence collected at the hospital following a suspected sexual assault to a lab for processing within 72 hours.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has hounded the health department and the state legislature to reduce the backlog. He said there is no excuse for the state to say it does not have the money to move the number as close to zero as possible.

“To me, it should be doable,” he said. “You’re talking about $1,000 to $1,500 per kit. In a state that has a $31 billion budget, they should find the money for it.”

Last year, the state allocated $419,788 to test previously unprocessed rape kits in Philadelphia County and $254,437 to test kits held by the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office.

DePasquale said he knows where the state legislature can find more as it grapples with the 2017-18 budget -- a $118 million surplus

“Cash reserves sitting in their account right now,” DePasquale said.  “They could offer up about $2 million of that and get rid of this backlog.”

DePasquale said he has worked with State Rep. Brandon Neuman to get funding added to next year’s budget.  He has also been working with 11-year-old Madison Wertz who started a petition drive on Change.org to drum up support for more funding.