Nurses report increase in sexual assault victim examinations

This year's budget funds the SANE and pediatric SANE programs at $4,630,449

MGN/Nina Rodriguez/Flickr

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE) – As the state’s sexual assault nurse examiner program grows, its advisory board is optimistic that the program will be spared from midyear budget cuts.

Through the program, trained and certified nurse examiners (SANEs) perform medical exams on victims of sexual assault, provide testing and treatment, and collect forensic evidence.

The nurses performed 1,051 such exams on adult and adolescent patients age 12 and over and 889 on pediatric patients in the 2016 fiscal year, according to statistics presented at a SANE Advisory Board meeting Monday. The numbers represent an increase from the previous year, when the nurses performed 900 adult and adolescent exams and 751 pediatric exams.

“The SANE program has been busy, unfortunately,” said Joan Meunier-Sham, the program’s director.

This year’s budget funds the SANE and pediatric SANE programs at $4,630,449, including a $180,000 earmark for the Massachusetts Children’s Alliance to support children’s advocacy centers.

The Baker administration is seeking to close what it has identified as a $295 million gap in the $39.25 billion fiscal 2017 budget, with sales tax growth slower than previously expected.

Baker and Administration and Finance Secretary Kristen Lepore have laid out a series of areas they expect to be safe from budget cuts: local government aid, funding for district public schools, core Department of Children and Families services, higher education, the court system, the Department of Mental Health, pensions, debt service and the budgets of the other four constitutional officers.

Baker said last Thursday he will look to take action “over the course of the next several weeks.” Carlene Pavlos, the director of the Department of Public Health’s bureau of community health and prevention and chair of the SANE Advisory Board, said SANE program staff will be watching for the outcome.

“I would say that we are incredibly fortunate in the SANE program in that this is a program that a lot of people have expressed a lot of support for, so we are still watching that but are not doing so with the amount of trepidation I think that some other programs are thinking about right now in terms of the fiscal picture for the state, which is rather grim,” Pavlos said.

Acute SANE services are delivered in 30 hospitals across the state, including South Shore Hospital and Berkshire Medical Center, both of which were added in the past year, Meunier-Sham said. She said South Shore Hospital has since seen 69 patients and Berkshire Medical Center 37, making them “both clearly hospitals that needed the services.”

SANE services at Lowell General Hospital launched on Oct. 12, and nurse examiners there have since seen six sexual assault patients, including four on Sunday, Meunier-Sham said.