SOUTH OGDEN — The shock has worn off, but the urgent problem remains: A local nonprofit group that helps sexual assault victims is scrambling to find a new home.
“When you’re under the gun, you learn all kinds of talents,” said JeanLee Carver, president and medical director of Northern Utah Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners.
Carver has been trying to find a new location for the program, a groundbreaking venture created 14 years ago by local emergency room nurses who were unhappy about the stark process victims had to go through to be examined.
NUSANE has been housed in the old South Ogden city hall, where nurses who are specially trained in sexual assault examinations can perform the exams in a quiet, confidential setting, far removed from the prior, chaotic environment of a hospital emergency room.
But the city council voted in November to close the building and sell off the land for development, saying it could no longer afford to operate the old structure.
The city had hosted the group for 13 years for just $200 rent a month. NUSANE suddenly faced a time crunch to land a new location, with the prospect of a huge rent increase if it had to pay market rate somewhere else.
However, Carver said Tuesday she has made promising contacts with various local agencies and building owners. A new site, with potential help from local government entities, may be found soon, she hopes.
But there are complications, such as the question of rent support from any public agencies.
And one available building in downtown Ogden has a water supply problem that would need to be fixed — the current NUSANE site has a shower for victims.
Some other potential sites may need remodeling.
“We didn’t realize how great we had it, with a shower and that big space,” Carver said.
Ogden City officials, the Ogden Police Department and the Weber County Commission have expressed willingness to help NUSANE re-establish its operation, Carver said.
South Ogden City Manager Matt Dixon said Mayor Russell Porter recently outlined NUSANE’s situation to the Weber Area Council of Governments. South Ogden’s position is that other government entities in the county should step forward to help now, after South Ogden has subsidized NUSANE’s site for more than a decade.
Carver said the city has told her the old city hall may be closed by March, which gives NUSANE perhaps a couple of months to relocate.
If NUSANE loses its office before a new site can be established, its nurses would have to return to basics — back to the days of exams in hospital emergency rooms.
“We would contact all emergency departments and shelters and law enforcement, and we would respond to the ED for the exams,” she said.
Rather that being taken to the calming NUSANE program, in a quiet area of South Ogden, “the victim will end up in the ED,” she said.
“It would be a huge digression in care,” Carer said. “It’s what we’re hoping to avoid.”
NUSANE is the only free-standing rape exam facility in Utah. It serves victims from Weber, Davis, Morgan and Box Elder counties.
Evidence collected in rape examinations is crucial to police and prosecutors in gaining convictions.
Moving the exams out of nursing rooms also saves hospitals thousands of dollars a year, Carver said.