Caloia bringing SANE back to Garfield County
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Sherry Caloia is on the cusp of reviving a defunct program to provide sexual assault nurse examiners.
Valley View Hospital ran a SANE program offering examinations to victims of sexual assault in the critical time after an attack. But that fell through in 2012, and Garfield County’s law enforcement agencies have since been sending victims to the two closest SANE nurses in Grand Junction and Silverthorne.
The DA estimated that Garfield County averages about two cases per month that require SANE exams.
These examiners are qualified nurses who conduct exams in order to collect evidence, get a full history of the assault, answer their patient’s questions and offer advice for treatment — such as if the victim contracted a sexually transmitted disease, said Caloia.
The exam is a pretty involved process that can take from three to four hours, and it requires a great deal of patient counseling, said Caloia.
But having to travel outside the county or having to delay the examination makes it more likely the victim, who is already dealing with trauma, won’t go through with the exam, she said.
Transportation to these facilities also has been a sore subject because if the police departments are going to transport the victim, it means taking an officer off the street for hours, maybe even an entire shift, the DA said.
Timing is critical for this type of exam; it needs to happen within a day or two of the assault for the exam to be most useful, Caloia said.
Fortunately, four to five nurses in Garfield County are already qualified and available to give these exams, some of whom worked in Valley View’s old SANE program.
Caloia’s primary obstacles are money and a location.
She approached the Garfield County commissioners last week looking for permission to use the county health department’s building in Rifle for the exams, at least to get the program started.
This is a public health need, and it fits with the county’s public health goals, she said.
Yvonne Long, Garfield County Public Health director, said she’s on board with giving the SANE program access to its Rifle building. Meanwhile, the county public health building in Glenwood Springs will be undergoing construction, so the DA’s program would have to find another suitable location in the eastern part of the county.
Caloia said all she needs to get up and running is a space with a waiting room, an office and a bathroom.
“We just need a location, and if Glenwood has to drive to Rifle, that’s a hell of a lot better than what we’ve had in the past.”
The DA also is trying to avoid using the hospitals, partly because the victim is charged for being admitted. They often have no health insurance, and that cost is not reimbursable, she said.
The actual fee for the SANE exam is paid for by the police department with jurisdiction where the assault occurred, as required by state statute.
Commissioner Mike Samson said he wants to ensure the program eventually is run in both Rifle and Glenwood Springs.
“What we’re doing is creating another [River Bridge Regional Center] for adults,” said Commissioner John Martin.
Martin talked about building the SANE program up to the point of offering similar services as River Bridge, a child advocacy organization that provides sexual assault exams, forensic interviews and counseling.
He also suggested the program might be able to partner with Valley View or Glenwood Medical Associates, which may have space in the top floors of its building just north of Valley View.
So far the biggest contributor to this effort has been the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, at $5,000. Sheriff Lou Vallario is also president of River Bridge Regional Center’s board of directors.
With that money Caloia has hired Mesa County’s SANE coordinator to start designing the program.
Some donations of medical supplies are also coming in. Caloia was recently able to secure an exam table, but she’s still looking for other miscellaneous medical supplies.
Aspen Valley Hospital and Grand River Hospital have contributed $2,500 each, and the DA is hoping for the same from Colorado Mountain College and Valley View.
Commissioners are also considering contributing $2,500 to the program, she said.
Caloia is also approaching each police department for contributions, around $500 each.
She told commissioners last week that she’s trying to amass a “war chest” to pay a coordinator, which will be one of the program’s major expenses.
Caloia estimates the program’s budget would be about $30,000 per year, but that’s starting out with a “very basic, very bare-bones” operation.
The DA expects to be able to get the new SANE program up and running before the end of the year, possibly as soon as a couple of months.
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