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BUFFALO, NEW YORK; MAY 15, 2009-ECMC officials, in partnership with the New York State Crime Victims Board and officials from the Erie County area rape crisis counseling provider Suicide Prevention and Crisis Services, today announced the further enhancement of the Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) Center of Excellence at ECMC. 

The New York State Crime Victims Board received $500,000 through a legislative initiative from the state Assembly to provide grants to hospitals, sexual assault and rape crisis centers, and victims' services programs to enhance sexual assault/rape crisis services and increase awareness of those services.  Last fall, ECMC was one of 19 entities to receive funding after a competitive application process.  The grant award to ECMC totaled $33,259 and is funding new equipment and clinician training that allows the medical center to enhance services to sexual assault victims.  A portion of the funds were earmarked to increase public awareness. 

"The Crime Victims Board is proud to support ECMC's Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner Center for Excellence," said Tina M. Stanford, chairwoman of the New York State Crime Victims Board.  "Statistics show that only 10 percent of rapes are ever reported to the police.  It is my hope that by supporting and highlighting the important work done at the ECMC and Suicide Prevention and Crisis Services, we will empower sexual assault victims to come forward with the knowledge that they will be treated with dignity, compassion and respect during an extremely difficult and traumatic time."  "The board and its entire staff are committed to supporting these efforts and ensuring that all victims of sexual violence get the assistance they need to rebuild their lives," Chairwoman Stanford added.

As the Adult Regional Trauma Center, ECMC was the first hospital in Western New York to establish (2004) a SAFE Center of Excellence in the region.  Since then, with each specially trained and certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), ECMC provides skilled and compassionate care to approximately 125 victims of sexual assault annually.  Through the CVB grant funding, ECMC has recently been able to increase its number of trained/certified nurses and purchase the latest equipment used for forensic examination of sexual assault victims.  ECMC has also launched a local campaign to increase awareness of the "SAFE Center of Excellence at ECMC" and the services available to sexual assault victims. 

"We are grateful to the Crime Victims Board for the grant funding to further improve our SAFE Center.  We are proud to partner with Suicide Prevention and Crisis Services to provide vitally important emergency and follow-up care, support and counseling to victims of sexual assault," stated Jody L. Lomeo, Chief Executive Officer, ECMC Corporation.  "We are also pleased to be able to provide more precise clinical documentation information to be used by our law enforcement and legal partners in these assault cases." 

Also at the news conference, officials dedicated a newly remodeled, SAFE/SANE-equipped emergency exam room in memory of one of ECMC's original Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, Sandra A. Kowalewski, RN, SANE-A, who passed away on November 3, 2007.  The dedication comments stated that, "Sandy ‘K' provided high-quality nursing care to our patients and their families.  Sandy was the epitome of an ER nurse.  She held several certifications, including: Advanced Cardiac Life Support for Adults/Pediatrics, Flight Nurse, and Advanced Trauma Care for Nurses.  She was committed to the SANE program, taking and passing the national certification exam while receiving chemotherapy for incurable pancreatic cancer.  Dedicating our SANE room to Sandy is just a small way of giving back to someone who has given so much to ECMC, the Emergency Department, and victims of sexual assault." 

ECMC's Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) Center of Excellence provides victims of sexual assault with access to trained staff 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.  The SAFE center works with the community response team [pre-hospital personnel, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, other healthcare providers, social services, counselors, patient advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors/district attorney office] to assist victims of sexual assault by providing medical and forensic exams and other needed services.  ECMC's SAFE center is equipped with advanced technological and forensic equipment that enhances the medical and forensic process. 

A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) is a Registered Nurse with additional specialized training in the care of victims of sexual assault.  The Nurse Examiner provides initial physical and behavioral assessment, clinical specimen and evidence collection, and interventions for victims of sexual assault.  The Nurse Examiner assists in coordinating the provision of emergent/urgent medical evaluation, follow-up care and crisis intervention resources.  This nurse also establishes and maintains clinical and legal records and chain of custody.  In addition, the Nurse Examiner will provide testimony regarding assessment, evidence collection and documentation of findings. 

The benefit of a SAFE center for victims of sexual assault is that the assaulted are offered prophylactic post-exposure treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STI), including the HIV post exposure prophylaxis (HIV-PEP) kit, Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) Immune Globulin, and the option of emergency contraception (EC).  Each victim is given sexual assault literature including comprehensive sexual assault assessment forms, Crime Victims Board claim forms, sexually transmitted disease information, and counseling/advocacy program information.  

The enhanced SAFE Center of Excellence services and facilities further enable ECMC to improve medical, psychosocial, and legal/judicial outcomes for adult victims of sexual assault.  As a result of the CVB grant, ECMC has increased its number of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner candidates and implemented on-call, 24/7 coverage.  

The new equipment has allowed for improved evidence collection for adult victims of sexual assault, who are examined according to New York State guidelines.  The new equipment now in use for forensic examination includes: a video-path colposcope, an imaging management system and digital camera with docking station to document injuries for prosecution; an ABO ruler to document the severity of bites and wounds for prosecution purposes; a Woods Lamp/UV Light Source to visualize semen proteins; a GYN Exam Cart with stirrups to improve victim comfort and facilitate examination; and a portable equipment cart to improve response time and operational efficiency.  Other enhancements allow for improved victim response and comfort. 

The CVB grant also has funded the development of ECMC SAFE Center awareness messages to be included on billboards, posters/flyers and informational brochures.  ECMC staff members have begun to educate clinicians from other organizations about sexual assault and ways to increase patient awareness to dispel myths and encourage reporting of sexual assault.  ECMC staff members have also begun to conduct outreach efforts about sexual assault and the availability of forensic examination and victim support by working with community health centers serving underserved areas and networking at churches and during community events.  At the end of this school year and at the beginning of the next school year, billboards with the SAFE Center awareness message will be located/reserved near colleges/universities and nightclubs, in an effort to reach vulnerable populations. 

ECMC clinicians are also working with the Rape Crisis Advisory Committee which is an interdisciplinary task force developed to establish a coordinated community response to sexual assault to conduct outreach events with area colleges, including the University at Buffalo, Buffalo State College, D'Youville College, and Medaille College.

ABOUT THE CRIME VICTIMS BOARD: The New York State Crime Victims Board was established in 1966 "to provide compensation to innocent victims of crime in a timely, efficient and compassionate manner; to fund direct services to crime victims via a network of community-based programs; and to advocate for the rights and benefits of all innocent victims of crime." The CVB provides funding to both ECMC and Suicide Prevention and Crisis Services to ensure these vital programs are available to the community.  The CVB also assists crime victims directly in a variety of ways, including paying for forensic rape exams and compensating victims for medical expenses or essential personal property lost as a result of the crime. 

 MORE ABOUT ECMC CORPORATION: The ECMC Corporation includes an advanced academic medical center (ECMC) with 550 inpatient beds and 136 skilled-nursing-home beds, on- and off-campus health centers, more than 40 outpatient specialty care clinics and the Erie County Home, a skilled nursing facility.  ECMC is the regional center for trauma, burn care, rehabilitation and is a major teaching facility for the University at Buffalo.  Most ECMC physicians, dentists and pharmacists are dedicated faculty members of the university.  More Western New York residents are choosing ECMC for exceptional patient care and customer service provided as a result of its Culture of Care. 

NEWS CONTACT:  Joe Cirillo: 716-898-4300 or jcirillo@ecmc.edu

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