APD ends contract with sex assault nurse examiners

The group of nurses who have handled sex assault exams for Austin police for the past 23 years is concerned about the future for victims. The department announced it would end the long-standing contract with the group.

During the course of a year, Austin-Travis County Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners see 500 patients. 90 percent of the victims are Austin police cases. Last week the department informed A/TC SANE that the 23-year-old partnership would end.

"I'm worried about the quality of care moving forward. Also, we do a lot of community outreach," said A/TC SANE Nurse Coordinator Moira Foley.

A/TC SANE Nurse Coordinator Moira Foley expressed her concerns to FOX 7 by phone Wednesday. Foley says the 11 nurses will continue providing services to victims for the next 60 days. Then, staff must find other jobs as APD has elected to go with a different provider.

"It's frustrating. I guess the best way to say is it's frustrating. It's an honor to be able to do this work. It sounds cliché to say it's a calling, but I think it really is," said Foley. "We really are helping the community at large. It's going to be a big void when these nurses are no longer able to do that."

Last month the department announced it would soon give victims another place to get exams. It will be called the "Tiny House" and is set to open on the campus of the domestic violence shelter SafePlace this summer.

Lt. Gena Curtis explained it would eliminate emergency room wait time and medical costs.

"They'll be able to come in, it will be a much more secluded, isolated area so that they will not be in the public's eye. We want to reduce the trauma to our victims as much as possible," said Curtis.

Foley would not speculate on any relation to the cancelled contract and the Tiny House.

APD released the following statement: "The Austin Police Department is finalizing contract negotiations with another provider and will continue to provide all the necessary resources to sexual assault victims. A sexual assault forensics exam will still be conducted by a sexual assault nurse examiner. Victims will continue to receive the same attention and care as they have always received."

Foley does not want this situation to discourage any victims from seeking help.

"Present to the emergency room. Call the police. You can call SafePlace. Report the assault to one of those entities and they're going to help you with the process moving forward. Don't make this prevent you from reporting," said Foley.

The contract officially ends on May 29th at midnight.

Travis County deputies are in the process of talking with hospitals and trying to work out exam providers for their victims.