Emily Rice Published

Bill Requires Rape Kit Access Within 24 Hours

A nurse practitioner wearing a stethoscope and a blue uniform as she writes notes in a health ledger.iStockphoto

A bill passed in the Senate Monday morning, requiring all West Virginia hospitals with emergency departments have a trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) available to treat victims 24 hours a day.

Senate Bill 89 passed on third reading. It now goes to the House of Delegates for consideration. Issues around proper care for victims of sexual assault or abuse were also a topic of conversation during interim committee sessions where lawmakers heard from advocates, including two representatives of the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Commission (SAFE).

On Jan. 10, two advocates for the bill, Nancy Hoffman, director of the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services (WVFRIS) and David Miller, Forensic Central Evidence Processing Supervisor with the West Virginia State Police, told lawmakers that remaining roadblocks in proper care and criminal proceedings stem from a shortage of SANE-trained nurses in combination with travel time and costs, causing long delays for the victims.

Senate Bill 89 addresses those issues by calling on the state’s hospitals to implement training as soon as possible, to meet their 18-month deadline.

Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, mentioned the legislature has been working to pass a version of this bill for three years. He asked if West Virginia’s hospitals would have a hard time complying.

In response, Health and Human Resources Committee Chair Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, mentioned interim committee discussions and said the hospitals understood how important this training will be for their patients.

“We’ve had some pretty intense discussions during interims concerning this,” Maroney said. “The hospitals had a presence there like they usually do everywhere, paying attention. It’s a mandate of nurse training during probably the worst nursing shortage in our state’s history, the timing is not ideal but we have waited two years and they’ve known it’s coming and they are going to ramp up a little bit if you take the effective date, you have another 18 months, which gives you three cycles of training to get through. They know it is the right thing to do and they are okay.”

Furthermore, lawmakers discussed how impactful accessibility of SANE-trained nurses will be to the victims, but also the investigations.

“It would be possible right now to be a rape victim and have to travel, dirty, for three hours, that is adding significantly more trauma in my opinion to the victim that has already been traumatized,” Maroney said. “Every mile you drive, you increase the risk of contamination so therefore you risk non-conviction.”

Senate Bill 89 passed unanimously.