OGDEN (ABC4 News) – After losing its original location of 13 years, a self-sustaining Weber County sexual assault clinic has found a new home.
“It’s been pretty anxiety-provoking. We didn’t really know when South Ogden would be demolishing our building,” said JeanLee Carver, CEO and Medical Director of Northern Utah Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (NUSANE).
When Carver opened the clinic in 2005, she wanted to provide an alternative place for survivors to seek treatment and resources. 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.
Currently, NUSANE has a team of 16 to 17 on-call nurses that service Weber, Davis, Box Elder, and Morgan counties. Since the non-profit organization has been entirely self-supported, its residency at the South Ogden city building was a good fit because of the affordable rent – a steady rate of $250 a month for the last 13 years.
Carver said last year, her team saw 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.
“We are encouraged by an increase in numbers because we hope that means more people are reporting,” she said.
But last year, South Ogden City Council members voted to demolish 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 to ABC4 News back in December 2018. “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 the 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 since they were made aware of the council’s decision, she and her team have been scrambling to find a new location.
“This isn’t something that you advertise. We’re a non-profit business. You don’t know anything about us, until you need us. So it was heartening for us to have that community outcry for our security and ability to establish a new location,” she said.
Ultimately, she said Weber-Morgan Health Department offered them the best option. Although the new space is only about half the size of the original location, Carver said it was still a good offer based on the rising cost of real estate.
“After looking at several different locations with exorbitant amounts of rent, we met with Weber County,” said Carver. “They were so welcoming, gracious, and helpful. We were able to negotiate the same amount of rent, which is huge because the square footage would have been more than we could afford.”
She said NUSANE began seeing patients at its new location at the beginning of May.
“This place is newer. It’s clean. They laid new carpet and floor covering in our exam. It’s like a brand-new space. People have donated tables and decor. It’s like a home,” said Carver. “We don’t have showers or a dedicated meeting room for law enforcement anymore, but those were things we didn’t use as much. We feel very fortunate to have a place where our patients can come that’s still quiet and confidential.”
Now that the clinic has settled into its new home, Carver said her team can focus on providing the care, services, resources their patients need.
“I don’t think sexual assault will be going away anytime soon. But having a new home means we will remain stable and we’ll be here. We plan to be here for a long time,” said Carver.