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Federal Bill Aims to Boost Sexual Assault Nurse Training

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Many hospitals in the state do not have a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner on staff, but a North Carolina congresswoman is supporting bipartisan legislation that could help change that.

The national shortage of SANE nurses in the U.S. has reached crisis proportions, according to Deborah Ross (D-Raleigh), a member of the House Democratic Caucus.

Ross and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met on Tuesday. To address the shortage, Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, introduced the Supporting Access to Nurse Exams Act.

Ross expressed optimism about the bill, owing in part to its emphasis on rural and tribal communities.

“I am so happy that we drew the attention to SANE nurses in our amendments and that now Congress is committed to funding more nurses … and having a special focus on children who are victims of sexual assault,” Ross said.

“I’m just thrilled that we have bipartisan consensus on it. I’m thrilled that the senators who are pushing this are so senior.”

The legislation would train more nurses in SANE methods across the country, with a $30 million grant influx per year until 2028. The grants could be used to pay nurse salaries, set up training programs across the country, and provide assistance with DNA sample collection and analysis.

In the United States, a companion bill has been introduced. The Senate will amend the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2021 to reflect the SANE Act. The companion legislation is being led by the United States. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

According to Ross, training programs funded by the grant will most likely be located in rural or tribal communities. Nurses in western North Carolina, for example, could travel to eastern Tennessee for training rather than Asheville or other locations further east.

Ross wrote a successful amendment to the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act last year that allowed grant funds to be used to track where SANE nurses work. After her first bill on SANE nurses was passed, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network approached her and other members of Congress about improving training and funding for SANE nurses nationwide.

“The work that you did at Carolina Public Press highlighted the need for SANE nurses,” Ross said of what inspired last year’s amendment. “You started it by educating us.”

CPP surveyed 130 hospitals and community programs about their SANE nurse programs in late 2020 and early 2021 for that series and discovered that no state agency tracks where SANE nurses work. Victims seeking assistance from a SANE nurse frequently travel to multiple hospitals over several days just to find one on duty.

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