New Program Available to Support Local Victims of Sexual Assault Thanks to Grant
Pictured front left is Tina M. Travis, executive director, Gratiot County Community Foundation; holding the check are Marita Hattem-Schiffman, president, MidMichigan Medical Centers in Alma and Mt. Pleasant; Heather Therrien, forensic interviewer, Children’s Advocacy Center and Audra Stahl, president/CEO, Child Advocacy. Surrounding them are Gratiot County Community Foundation and Child Advocacy volunteers along with Emergency Room and community health staff members of the Medical Center in Gratiot.
Imagine the heartbreaking scenario of a young child or a college student sexually assaulted in Gratiot County and then having to travel up to 90 miles one way to receive the necessary care and forensic evidence collection needed for prosecution.
Thanks to a local grant, victims of sexual assault, of any age or gender, will benefit from a new program that will be implemented at MidMichigan Medical Center – Gratiot due to support received from the Gratiot County Community Foundation from the Clyde and Maude Mizer Memorial Fund.
A $4,900 donation was granted to the MidMichigan Health Foundation to help implement a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program in Gratiot County. This effort is in collaboration with the Children’s Advocacy Center of Gratiot (CAC) County. CAC is a program operated under the umbrella of Child Advocacy, a non-profit organization in Alma, whose mission is to improve the welfare of children and their families. The SANE program will be housed at and supervised by the Medical Center in Gratiot and utilized by CAC and any resident of Gratiot County who may fall victim to sexual assault.
According to Tina M. Travis, executive director, Gratiot County Community Foundation, the Foundation’s board wholeheartedly endorsed the support of this project.
“When MidMichigan Medical Center – Gratiot stepped up offering the staff and ongoing funding for the SANE program, it made perfect sense for the Foundation to fund the training to set the program in motion sooner rather than later,” said Travis. “Thanks to continued collaboration in our community, victims of abuse will no longer have to travel outside of Gratiot County for the critical services they need.”
Shanna Hensler, community health specialist, MidMichigan Medical Centers in Alma and Mt. Pleasant, explained that four registered nurses will be identified to receive specialized training and credentialing for the purpose of providing a sexual assault exam and collecting critical evidence needed for prosecution. The training will consist of both adult and pediatric certifications.
“Currently, in Gratiot County, without a SANE program in place, children have to visit a hospital out of county to receive these exams and/or treatment,” added Audra Stahl, president/CEO, Child Advocacy. “We understand that we may still have some children who need to visit Devos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids for services, but having this service in our community will be tremendously helpful and timelier.
We are excited to partner with the hospital on such a meaningful project and we are extremely grateful to the Gratiot County Community Foundation for the funding.”
Stahl stated that the Children’s Advocacy Center of Gratiot County provides an average of 125 forensic interviews a year and about 90 percent of these interviews are for victims of child sexual abuse; of those approximately 40 require an exam.
The Medical Center has already redecorated some of the Emergency Department exam rooms for the purpose of serving children. The rooms are now colorful, with warm lighting and have décor appropriate for children in the hallways leading up to the exam rooms. In addition, other areas in the Emergency Department have been changed to make it more appropriate to meet the special needs of adult male and female victims of sexual assault.
“As an undergraduate student at Central Michigan University many years ago, I became involved in sexual assault education and prevention,” said Marita Hattem-Schiffman, president, MidMichigan Medical Centers in Alma and Mt. Pleasant. “Sexual assault is shockingly prevalent today and it is critical that we understand and respond to the needs of our community. We are so proud to be part of this community partnership that will help ensure Gratiot County sexual assault victims receive the care, comfort and compassion they need and deserve.”