But for more than two years, that was the choice faced by women and men in and around Mt. Pleasant. After reporting an assault, victims were directed to hospitals in Midland, Grayling or Lansing – the nearest facilities that offered a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program.
The burden placed on victims was simply too much, says Central Michigan University chief of police Larry Klaus – and he knew it had to change.
Isabella County’s previous SANE program had ended in 2013 due to a loss in grant funding. But in 2016, with the support of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, the program was relaunched at McLaren Central Michigan in Mt. Pleasant.
“It was my personal belief that as a community we could reestablish this service at one of our local hospitals, not only for our students but for the entire community so people didn’t have to travel such distances to get this procedure done,” Klaus says. “All the law enforcement throughout the region wanted to see this restored. It’s a good partnership.”
Beth Ann Nesbitt works at a booth to educate the community about the SANE program during the Donut 5K run/walk, which is held during National Crime Victims Awareness Week and put on by the prosecuting attorney’s office.Implemented by registered nurses specifically trained as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, the SANE program provides forensic medical care, emergency contraception, trauma response, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and referrals to ensure patients get the follow-up support they need, such as mental health care. A trained advocate also provides on-site support, says Beth Ann Nesbitt, a nurse at McLaren and the hospital’s SANE program coordinator.
“The advocate is like the touchstone for the patient. Instead of calling this and that person, their advocate helps them navigate through the health care system as far as the services that they may need,” she says.
A change of clothing is provided for patients, as law enforcement may need to collect the victim’s clothes.
“That gives them a little more comfort than being in that hospital gown,” explains Tracy Chappel, emergency department manager at McLaren.
It’s all part of making the patient feel as comfortable as possible given the circumstances.
Paintings were donated by Mercantile Bank and hung in the SANE exam room. Birch tress symbolize healing, which is why these particular pieces of art were chosen.
Removing a barrier
With sexual violence involving physical contact affecting more than 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 4 men at some point in their lives, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, a SANE program nearby removes a major hurdle for local residents who may need the services – including the many college students who call Isabella County home for most of the year.
“It took away a barrier,” Klaus says. “There were occasions here on our campus where we would engage the facility in Midland and … many individuals just decided not to proceed. Providing that service here locally is less traumatic for our survivor victims.”
“The nurses that are on-call for our SANE program have a passion for wanting to help these patients. They volunteer to go through the training and be on call,” she says. “It’s not something required of them; they want to make a difference for these women, these men, so they volunteer to do that in addition to their normal duties.”
Bags were donated by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe that contain clothing for survivors who come through the hospital for an exam.
“The tribe has been very generous,” she says. “They were able to help us with the funds to get the education and some of the specialized equipment – some of those things are extremely expensive. They also care about this as something they want to provide to the community.”
SANE services are provided at no cost to the patient. “Money is the last thing we worry about,” Nesbitt says.
“They take pride in what we do. They are very strong advocates for these patients, and this is very emotionally stressful work,” Chappel points out. “I’m very proud of the team that has come together and what they want to do for these patients.”
“Part of that interaction is trying to help connect our survivors with resources for the recovery. This is a traumatic event in people’s lives and we want to help facilitate getting people to the resources they need,” he says. “It’s very traumatic, especially for our students. We want to try to help them back on their path to wellness.”
“Hopefully they never have to use it, but it’s there if they do,” he says.