Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed a bill into law that will expand the ability of remote and rural healthcare providers to effectively treat the needs of sexual assault victims. The measure creates a statewide telehealth network to allow these providers with Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), who have specialized training to collect evidence and testify as experts in sexual assault court proceedings. The point of the bill is to ensure that sexual assault survivors receive appropriate and compassionate care from trained individuals and that the evidence collected from them will stand up in court.
Texas currently has 357 certified SANE operators among 80 hospitals, but most are located in urban areas. With the help of the new telehealth network, providers in rural areas would be able to access the same resources, which should improve not only the quality of care, but enhance the ability of law enforcement authorities to prosecute those accused of committing sexual assault.
State officials modeled the program after a 2017 program that the Pennsylvania State University’s College of Nursing initiated using a U.S. Department of Justice grant. The Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Telehealth (SAFE-T) Center provides a platform for Penn State SANEs to train rural healthcare providers and assist them in treating sexual assault victims. The focus of the program is to provide the extensive technology necessary to properly document analyze forensic evidence to rural areas, which simply cannot afford or justify the expense of obtaining and maintaining the equipment. By providing much-needed training to nurses who are unaccustomed to testifying in court and explaining forensic evidence, this program can improve outcomes for sexual assault prosecutions. If you or a family member is facing any type of criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.