Sexual assault exams for rape victims to help them and law enforcement will be done again in Carson City beginning this autumn.
The city Board of Health, which is the Board of Supervisors plus Dr. Susan Pintar and Sheriff Ken Furlong, received written and verbal reports Thursday that a sexual assault response team (SART) has hit upon a solution to the problem that required victims to travel to the Reno area for such examinations there. Dr. Pintar, city health officer, has tracked SART’s progress and Supervisor Karen Abowd was instrumental in SART’s work, along with community stakeholders.
Abowd, after the report on the solution from Kitty McKay of Carson Tahoe Hospital Foundation, thanked everyone involved and said lack of exams for rape victims in the community has been “a huge roadblock for us.”
McKay said Carson Tahoe Health is providing a dedicated room, medication and supplies at Carson Tahoe’s Speciality Medical Center on Fleischmann Way. She said various SART members are pitching in to help move toward exams as soon as feasible. She said city Health and Human Services (HHS) will contract with Dr. Shannon Hess of Carson Medical Group to be medical director of the SART program. City HHS also will contract with nurse examiners.
In her written report, McKay said those nurse examiners initially will travel from Reno.
“Over time,” she added, “the team will be working with local nurse examiners to help establish and maintain certification.” Carson Tahoe Hospital had earlier done such tests, but after the health facility no longer was handling them the trips to Reno became the only option until this autumn. As McKay’s report put it:
“Given Carson City’s population, our relatively small volume of sexual assault examinations made it difficult for the hospital to independently sustain a viable program and for local nurse examiners to maintain the necessary forensic expertise. As a result, exams were discontinued locally, and Carson City residents have been traveling to Reno for this service.”
Collaboration was credited for leading to the imminent change.
“Understanding the need for improved access, as well as sustainability, representatives from private and local governmental entities pulled together to work collaboratively and share resources in order to establish a permanent program that will be available to compassionately serve area residents long term,” according to McKay’s written report.
She identified the stakeholders as Carson City HHS, the city district attorney’s office, the sheriff’s office, Advocates to End Domestic Violence, Abowd and Carson Tahoe Health. She also explained the need for exams.
“Unfortunately, the time and financial challenges many victims faced when it came to accessing transportation made the journey to Reno difficult,” she wrote, and “lack of a nearby facility created a barrier for many people interested in pursuing a forensic exam.” McKay said it also put a strain on Sheriff Furlong’s resources.
In another report on collaboration, the health board learned of expansion in area efforts to serve persons with mental health issues who can wind up in jail. Dr. Joe McEllistrem said Carson City and Douglas County efforts to combat that and help with treatment are now in Lyon County, as well. He said the FASTT (Forensic Assessment Services Triage Team) approach helps keep “high utilizers” from being a continual burden on expensive places they may wind up, such as jails and emergency rooms.
Furlong, meanwhile, said in a nutshell it means the city is doing well in coping with mental health problems via collaboration and the program is expanding to nearby communities.