‘Safe Suite’ opens at Texas Health Hospital Rockwall for survivors of sexual abuse

(ROCKWALL, TX – March 11, 2020) Texas Health Hospital Rockwall (THRW) recently welcomed community partners to an unveiling of its new Safe Suite – a private room dedicated to providing care for sexual assault survivors 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are on call to provide patients – both children and adults, female and male – with the specialized care they need following an outcry of sexual abuse or assault. SANE nurses undergo 100 hours of specialized training and are equipped to care for the patient’s medical needs as well as needs that go beyond an exam room.

“I am honored to have an amazing team of forensic nurses here at Texas Health Hospital Rockwall, who not only have the expertise but the empathy to make a difference,” said Tami Hawkins, RN, Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer. “And I’m incredibly honored to work for a healthcare organization that recognizes the need for survivors in our community to receive this support right here, in a timely manner.”

Texas Health Rockwall’s Safe Suite – the only one of its kind in the county – is a serene, secure, trauma-informed environment located away from the busyness of the Emergency Department, with all of the equipment needed in one place. SANE nurses serve as patient advocates, trained in collecting, preserving and documenting evidence, while providing compassionate care and support.

Cindy Perrin, President of Texas Health Hospital Rockwall, shared with invited guests that the hospital-based SANE program is the result of more than two years of planning and preparation as the hospital worked to meet necessary guidelines, regulations, and licensing requirements.

“We’re blessed to be here caring for this community, and when we identified this need we made it a priority to provide the service and assure quality in all aspects,” said Perrin. “We thank our wonderful partners in the community: Women In Need, Children’s Advocacy Center for Rockwall County, Rockwall Police Department, Heath Department of Public Service and Rockwall County Sheriff’s Office for their ongoing support in bringing this dream to life. Without your efforts to bring awareness to the abuse that occurs in our community, our patients would be without the critical resources they need to see them through to a place of healing.”

Among those present for the unveiling were Kenda Culpepper, Rockwall County District Attorney; Patricia Mejia, President and CEO of Children’s Advocacy Center for Rockwall County; Crystal Richardson, Director of Partner Relations at the CAC; Connie Pettitt, Women in Need Executive Director; Sara Maldonado and Janelle Gettman with the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center; Chief Terry Garrett, Heath DPS; and Jim Pruitt, Rockwall Mayor. Representing the hospital were Dr. Dana Landry, Medical Director of the SANE program; Alma Howard, Texas Health Rockwall Board of Managers; Gary Bonacquisti, Chief Medical Officer; Kim Arrowood, Emergency Department Director and SANE Coordinator; and Jennifer Knight, SANE nurse. Danielle Sanchez, SANE nurse, was unable to attend the reveal, but is also integral to the SANE program.

District Attorney Kenda Culpepper, who serves as Board President for the Children’s Advocacy Center for Rockwall County, expressed her appreciation during the event. “I want to say thank you, Texas Health Hospital Rockwall, for providing this space – because you are a face of our community in this fight. We very much appreciate that you’ve stepped to the forefront and made this a priority. From a law enforcement perspective, we couldn’t be more proud that we are showing our community our heart with a place like this.”

As President of the CAC, Patricia Mejia said, “The CAC model takes all of us working together in partnership, and as a result of that, we are putting our best effort forward to make sure that every child is offered every service they need. When the CAC first started, it was estimated we’d see about 15 cases per month. In a 20 month window, we have served just shy of 600 cases.”

She added, “It’s an amazing blessing to have this caliber of people pull together to make this a reality – to strip away any guilt, any shame, any fear – once the person has the courage to say something, every little thing makes a huge difference. This can be a turning point for that person, meeting them exactly where they are, giving them exactly what they need at that moment.”

Connie Pettitt, who heads up the local nonprofit Women in Need serving victims of family violence, echoed these sentiments. “This is a coalition of individuals who are trained in this field – in an area that we are not – and this is a necessary component. This program is going to be very empowering for these individuals who have been disempowered.”

Perrin closed the event by giving credit to the SANE nurses, Dr. Landry and Tami Hawkins, VP of Patient Care Services/Chief Nursing Officer, for their passion and commitment to making the program possible at Texas Health Rockwall. “I am so very, very proud of these ladies, and so appreciative of their compassion and perseverance creating this new program at Texas Health Rockwall. It’s been a journey, but we are well positioned to provide the necessary treatment and assistance to survivors of abuse with full confidence they can trust in the processes we have in place.”

By Dawn Redig, Blue Ribbon News. Photos by Blue Ribbon News. 

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