UNE receives $1.5M grant to increase Maine’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) workforce

The University of New England Department of Nursing has been awarded a $1.5 million grant by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) to increase the number of nurses in Maine who are trained to respond to allegations of sexual assault.

Through the grant, UNE, in collaboration with Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Child and Family Services, will refine and develop new models of technology outreach to train nurses to become Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE), on-call, licensed practitioners who are contacted to gather forensic evidence and to provide mental health support to those who report an act of sexual assault. Instruction will be delivered through the existing Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner training, led by the program’s director Polly Campbell.

The University of New England is the only institution in New England to receive this award. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King wrote letters in support of UNE as the grant awardee.

“In order for survivors of sexual assault to heal, they need direct access to trained professionals who can support them throughout their recovery,” said Senator King. “In rural areas, professional support for survivors of sexual assault can be few and far between – this sizable grant will help the University of New England train nurses to specifically care for these survivors and guide them through each obstacle they may face on the road to recovery. Using compassion, support and technological training, UNE’s nursing students can make a lasting difference in each survivor’s life.”

“Having more nurses in our state who are specially trained to respond to allegations of sexual assault is critical to our mission at DHHS of protecting Maine’s most vulnerable populations,” said Kirsten Capeless, director of the Office of Child and Family Services within DHHS. “This collaborative effort will help protect and support countless survivors of sexual assault.”

The funding will allow UNE to hire three Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners who will develop training for professional nurses in Maine, use technology to deliver advanced training to nurses rural areas, and improve SANE curriculum for all of UNE’s health professions students. The goal is to increase the number of annual trainings for nurses in Maine by at least 50 percent over the three-year life of the grant so that there is 24/7 coverage across the state.

“This program will do so much more than increase the number of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners in Maine,” said UNE Director of Nursing Jennifer Morton, D.N.P., M.P.H. “It will also serve as a support system for those nurses, as well as a safety net for victims, who will know that when they come forward to report sexual assault, there will be a trained nurse available to collect evidence and offer appropriate mental health services.”

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