As many as 15 women are treated every month at Sarah’s Place at Samaritan Albany General Hospital, the only stand-alone sexual assault nurse examiner center in Oregon.

Specially trained staff provide treatment 24 hours per day, seven days a week, a group of about 15 mid-valley residents were told Thursday afternoon during a Med Talk program at the hospital.

April is both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Nationally, 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate from college, the group was told. In Oregon, the percentage is even higher, 1 in 4.

Sarah’s Place staff members Emily Jaskoski and Tasha Musbrucker said that over the last three years, Sarah’s Place has provided assistance to more than 500 women and children, regardless of their address.

When staff members aren’t at the medical center next the hospital’s Ambulatory Surgery Center, they're working on outreach programs with area high schools and universities, as well as faith-based organizations, Musbrucker said.

“Oregon is second only to Alaska in terms of sexual assault,” Musbrucker said. “No one is immune. Abusers come from all communities and all social levels.”

The women said Samaritan Health Services considers sexual abuse as a major community health issue, which is why it developed the regional program to serve all of the local hospitals in Albany, Lebanon and Corvallis, as well as in Lincoln City and Newport. Professionally trained staff are on duty from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, plus some evening hours and always on-calls, Musbrucker said.

“Our response time is less than 20 minutes,” she said.

Examination times vary from 4 to 6 hours, although each situation is different.

Sarah’s Place has two consultation rooms and two examination rooms, a locked evidence storage area, shower and clothes closet.

“Our patients usually give us their clothes as evidence, or they don’t want them,” Musbrucker said. “We offer them new clothes, as well as things like ear buds and we even have food here. They have been traumatized and they often don’t eat for hours.”

Sarah’s Place goal is to end violence through community partnerships, education and comprehensive care.

Sexual assault nurse examiners spend 40 hours in a classroom setting and then spend a year in outreach efforts including ride-alongs with law enforcement and meeting with area professionals who deal with sexual and domestic assault issues.

Although patients can pay for services through their insurance programs, it is not mandatory, the women said. All services are provided free if requested. Those services include medical examination and treatment; forensic collections, Sexual Assault Infectious Disease prophylaxis (treatment), HIV risk assessment and prophylaxis, and connections with local support groups including the Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence.

“We always have a CARDV advocate available for our patients,” Jaskoski said.

A staff member has been working closely with area high school students and has made about 100 high school presentations, Jaskoski said.

“We are also reaching out to our most vulnerable populations, such as the homeless,” Musbrucker added. “We hope to break down the barriers among that population and to let them know we are here.”

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Sarah’s Place also works closely with the ABC House, which provides services to abused children, and with the Oregon State University health department. It's also developing a partnership at Western Oregon University.

Proceeds from the Samaritan Scramble golf tournament to be held June 13 at Trysting Tree Golf Course, will be donated to Sarah’s Place, Musbrucker said.

Sarah’s Place also accepts donations of new clothing and snacks for the program. Donations may also be made to the hospital’s foundation and earmarked for Sarah’s Place.

“It is one of those sad things we are so blessed to have in Linn County,” Linn County Commissioner Will Tucker said after a tour of the facility. “It is the only facility of its kind in Oregon and one of a few in the nation.”

Tucker praised Samaritan Health Services for “standing up to deliver quality medical care and leadership. This is an example of what we need more of to help break the cycle of abuse.”

Tucker said he is also pleased to see that Sarah’s Place and ABC House are working hand-in-hand to provide services for adults and children in the mid-valley.

To learn more about Sarah’s Place or to request services, call 541-812-4420.

Foundations director Jennifer Stanaway said the hospital hopes to hold four to six Med Talks per year, focusing on various programs provided by Samaritan Health Services facilities.

To learn more about the foundation, call 541-812-4705.

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Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.