Avera Rural Health receives grant to expand sexual assault exam services

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Avera’s Rural Health Department has received two grants totaling $4.5 million that will fund and support sexual assault forensic examination processes in rural communities.

The grants were presented by the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime and Office of Violence Against Women. The OVC-presented award will fund a project that involves more than 50 sites across five Midwestern states. Telemedicine will bring the care and expertise of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) to rural areas in a program called “eSANE for Rural.”

“For the last decade, Avera eCARE has supported rural emergency rooms, including in heart-wrenching cases working with sexual assault victims. We help health care professionals with the lengthy exams,” said Lisa Lindgren, BSN, MBA, Avera eCARE Vice President of Clinical Operations. “The response from hospitals joining this project, many coming with emotional stories of their goal of better serving their communities, has been overwhelming. This funding allows us to respond and join them in delivery of the best possible care.”

The second $500,000 SANE grant was presented to support an Avera eCARE® Emergency SANE program expansion.

“Sexual assault victims often must travel for exams, thus adding to their trauma. By assessing patients where they are, we can offer comfort to both patients and local care teams,” said Avera eCARE CEO Deanna Larson. "The specialty training in SANE ensures evidence is collected and handled appropriately, allowing for improved representation. Equally important is providing emotional support. We're extremely proud of the work so far, and its recognition as a model. When victims come forward for care and treatment, we will be ready to help their local care teams effectively serve them.”

According to a release, 30 rural hospitals will have 24/7 access to Avera’s SANEs as well local law enforcement and others involved in seeking justice for victims during the program.

Avera will partner with the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault to provide victim advocacy services and law enforcement coordination in support of program activity.