By Kathy Walsh

LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4)– Centura Health is using a nearly $1 million grant to expand its services for victims of sexual assault and abuse. Centura says the expansion is in response to a growing need.

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So far in 2018, three Centura hospitals in the south Denver metro area, Littleton Adventist Hospital, Parker Adventist Hospital and Porter Adventist Hospital, have seen a total of 200 victims, a 60 percent increase over the 122 they served in 2017.

It’s projected they will serve 255 victims in 2020.

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Nine Centura hospitals will be using the grant money to make sure no victim is turned away from the compassionate care of specially trained nurses.

“This is my calling, I know it is,” said Lorna Leader, RN.

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Lorna Leader, RN (credit: CBS)

For a year now, Leader has been a Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE) at Centura Health. In a safe space with tranquil scenes, she treats people going through unspeakable trauma.

“Any patient that comes in that has been sexually assaulted, in a domestic violence situation, strangulation, elder abuse,” she told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

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Leader is an RN, specially trained to examine assault and abuse victims. She gives them a thorough medical exam and collects DNA and photos for evidence.

“Any scratches, any abrasions, any bruising,” she said.

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Her most important skill is compassion.

“I know what these women go through. I know what these men go through,” Leader said.

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Leader has her own story of sexual assault. At 9 years old, she says she was knocked off her bicycle by a stranger.

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(credit: Lorna Leader)

“When I stood up and said I’m sorry, he stuck a knife to my throat and told me to get on (his bicycle). I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t say anything,” she said. “For five days, I did what he asked.”

Leader remembers her hospital experience after he let her go.

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“No one spoke to me; no one explained what was happening. It was almost like you were being traumatized again,” she explained.

In her job as an FNE, Leader listens to victims and assures them.

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“Nothing that we do ever asks for us to be violated,” she said.

The hope is the process starts the healing.

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“I know that we’re making a difference,” said Leader. “I believe that doing this work is my purpose.”

The grant will help maintain 5 full-time FNEs and 53 on-call FNEs to cover nine Centura Health hospitals right now, and eventually one additional location.

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Centura wants victims to know, through this program, they will never pay for forensic exams.

Centura Health Awarded Grant to Maintain and Grow Services for Victims of Sexual Assault, Abuse, and Human Trafficking

Program Anticipates Serving 1,900 Victims in Two Years

Centennial, COLO. (November. 13, 2018) – Centura Health the region’s health care leader, is on a mission to ensure no victim is turned away from the compassionate care and support they deserve. Through a coordinated grant application across nine hospital emergency room sites, the Crime Victim Services (CVS) Advisory Board through Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) recommended Centura Health receive funding of $991,970 over a two-year period.

“When a victim comes to the emergency department, we want this to be the first step in their healing journey,” stated Shauna Gulley, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer. “To help ensure the best possible interaction in a traumatizing situation, we provide specially trained Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNEs) to handle their care. Not only do these caregivers know how to interact with victims to prevent them from being retraumatized, but these professionals also collect forensic evidence that can be provided to law enforcement should the victim choose to seek prosecution. They also connect patients to community resources which furthers their healing and safety when they choose.”

In addition to purchasing technology for evidence collection and providing continuing education, this grant will maintain nine existing sites and grow one additional location. The existing sites include: St. Anthony Hospital (Lakewood), St. Anthony North Health Campus (Westminster), Centura Health 84th Avenue Neighborhood Health Center (Westminster), St. Anthony Summit (Frisco), Littleton Adventist Hospital (Littleton), Porter Adventist Hospital (Denver), Parker Adventist Hospital (Parker), Mercy Regional Medical Center (Durango), and St. Thomas More (Canon City). The new location to open in 2019 will be Longmont United Hospital (Longmont).

“Due to this grant, Centura Health anticipates increasing the number of patients we serve through this program by 73% over two years,” stated Carrie Bach, St. Anthony Foundation Director. “At the current increasing rate of rape crimes, Colorado is estimating 3,750 sexual assaults to be reported this year alone. Centura Health expects to treat the equivalent of 25% of the survivors who report assault in Colorado.”

Centura Health’s Forensic Nurse Examiner Program provides the highest quality forensic nursing care not just for victims of sexual assault, but also intimate partner violence, elder abuse, and human trafficking for the State. Centura Health also ensures that victims will never pay for forensic exams through this program.

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Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 since 1984. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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