SOUTH OGDEN (ABC 4 News) – After 13 years of providing a safe, private, and comforting place for victims to file sexual assault reports, the Northern Utah Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners clinic will have to find a new home.
The clinic is located on the west side of the old South Ogden city building, a location where the non-profit organization pays $250 a month in rent to the city for a space where the police station used to be. Their team of more than a dozen on-call nurses service Weber, Davis, Box Elder, and Morgan counties.
“We are grateful to South Ogden City. It was South Ogden Police Chief Shupe’s idea to offer us this old law enforcement wing of the old municipal building,” said JeanLee Carver, CEO and medical director of NUSANE.
The organization is entirely self-supported, purchasing their own supplies and not receiving any federal or state grants. Their objective is to provide a more intimate and nurturing environment for sexual assault victims – away from the stressful, traumatic, and chaotic atmosphere that an emergency room could bring.
“Having worked in the emergency department, I know these patients are low on the triage totem pole, because most of them are not physically injured to the point where they require emergent care, so they would have to wait,” said Carver. “The wait is very difficult for them, from waiting for a room to waiting for a nurse to arrive. These exams are very lengthy, taking a minimum of two to there hours IF you’re good and organized.”
Carver said over the last year, her team has seen a 30 to 40 percent increase in the number of sexual assault reports – approximately 154 in 2017 to more than 200 expected reports by the end of 2018. She cited the #MeToo movement and more awareness and conversation around sexual assault as the main reasons for the increase.
Danielle Tennant, a sexual assault survivor, said she wouldn’t have filed a report if she had to do it in an emergency room.
“There’s just a lot of employees that work there. You have to explain your story over and over, and then just being in a cold emergency room is not what you want to do after an assault has happened,” said Tennant.
She came to NUSANE in August and although she is still healing, the services and resources the clinic has provided her has helped in her recovery process. Being a nurse herself, she has joined NUSANE and is currently training to be part of their on-call staff.
“I wouldn’t have been to make it through everything without them. I feel like location is key,” said Tennant.
In a meeting last month, city council members voted to surplus the building because the cost to repair the roof, HVAC, and other needs would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“In general, the public talks about lowering taxes, cutting costs, spending wisely, getting increased income,” said South Ogden Mayor Russ Porter. “This is just one of those examples where you balance the money you would get from development versus investing in an old building.”
Mayor Porter said it was a difficult decision for city council.
“It’s such a good program. We’ve been so happy with it here. What they do is fantastic. For 13 years, we’ve charged a couple hundred bucks rent because we love what they do, they provide such a good service,” said Mayor Porter. “This is not a thing where it was about money and we didn’t care about people. We have to balance what’s best for the whole city.”
Carver said the news came as a shock to her, having to find out about the proposal through a detective instead of through the city.
“It makes us sad. I mean, if they would’ve given us an opportunity to raise money for a new roof, we have 17 nurses with a lot of contacts and a lot of community friends that we may have been able to get this building roofed through neighbors and volunteers,” said Carver.
In a data report provided to ABC 4 News by Mayor Porter, NUSANE serviced Ogden Police Department the most with 47 reports in the last year. Layton came 2nd with 17 reports, Weber County Sheriff’s Office with 12 reports, Roy with 10 reports, and then South Ogden with 5 reports.
He said he is reaching out to mayors from surrounding cities, hoping to find another location to house NUSANE – a task Carver acknowledged, is not the city’s responsibility.
“As you look at it, South Ogden’s way down the list of residents who use their services so we would hope Ogden City, Roy, or Layton would step up and find a place to house them,” said Mayor Porter.
Carver has also looked for other properties on her own, but said even a one-person office building ranges from $1200 to $3000 a month, increasing their rent by 500 percent at minimum.
Mayor Porter said NUSANE will have several months, at least, before they will have to move out of the old city building.
Until they move into a new location, Carver said sexual assault victims will have to return to the E.R. to file a report. But no matter what happens, she said this won’t be the end of NUSANE.
“It’s unfortunate, but we’re going to make it work,” said Carver. “We can’t just shut our door. We have to find another way.”