Local officials joined CMH President & CEO Jim Xinis to unveil the high-powered digital camera recently purchased for the local Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) program. The advanced technology provides extremely detailed information that can lead to better prosecution of these cases.
On hand for the presentation were Calvert County State's Attorney Laura Martin, Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans and Calvert County Commission President Wilson Parran. Martin was instrumental in leading the effort to secure $15,000 in federal grant funds for the purchase. The sheriff and county commissioners also endorsed the request.
"I want to recognize and thank the state's attorney, the sheriff and the county commissioners for their support of this critically important program," said Xinis.
Calvert SAFE Program Coordinator Sharon Flesher, RN says the new equipment will be a valuable tool in proving sexual abuse in court. "The Xam Station Pro is a state-of-the-art magnifying device," she said, "that can detect injuries not available to the naked eye."
The computer station includes software that allows the SAFE nurses to document what they find physically as well as what the patient tells them. It also gives the examiners the ability to electronically store this information on a disk along with the digital images for transport to the appropriate authorities.
The SAFE program began at CMH in 1995. Last year, Flesher said they handled 42 cases. "We are dedicated to making sure these victims are treated with compassion and respect," she said, "and that evidence is collected by a trained professional who is only caring for them."
Currently, there are nine nurses at CMH who are certified to perform these in-depth exams, which take about two to three hours to complete. Flesher said SAFE nurses are required to have eight hours of continuing education annually. "This specialized training is necessary," she said, "to ensure that the evidence is collected with accuracy and precision." The CMH Foundation raised $3,000 that was used to pay for this training.
"The SAFE nursing program is absolutely vital to the successful prosecution of sexual assault cases in Calvert County," said Martin. "These dedicated professionals are specifically trained to collect the forensic evidence necessary to obtain convictions against sexual predators as well as testify in court as experts."
"Moreover, they provide essential medical care to the victims of sexual assault in a sensitive manner," she said.