Murkowski, Hickenlooper Introduce Legislation to Improve Access to Medical Forensics for Victims of Violence

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and John Hickenlooper (D-CO) introduced S. 2655, the Ensuring Forensic Care for All Victims Act. This legislation that builds upon the work of the Alaska Comprehensive Training Forensic Academy, which is a pilot program run through the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). The bill authorizes demonstration grants to provide an evidence-based and trauma-informed care approach for a broad group of providers, including emergency service providers, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physicians, and community health aides and practitioners.  

“Alaska continues to see some of the highest rates of interpersonal violence in the nation. Unfortunately, rural parts of the state have challenges retaining specialized forensic examiners. Increasing opportunities for basic forensic training in healthcare settings ensures that victims of violence will receive the necessary trauma-informed care that they need to heal, including medical evidence collection to assist them on their path to justice,” said Senator Murkowski. “This legislation is based off a pilot program developed at UAA that has been incredibly successful. I am proud to take an Alaskan success story and use it to help provide a nationwide solution for expanding generalist forensic services. This will be especially impactful for victims of violence in rural communities across the United States.”

"I started the Alaska Comprehensive Forensic Training Academy because I believe strongly that all victims of violence deserve evaluation and care from forensically trained health care providers (including nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, community health aides and other first responders). We have done a great job at developing, promoting, and training nurses to respond to sexual assault for victims within the first 5-7 days after assault, but we are doing a disservice to victims who do not meet that time threshold or who have experienced other forms of violence such as strangulation, elder abuse, and domestic violence for which there are no standardized programs." said Angelia Trujillo DNP, WHNP-BC, Founder of Alaska Comprehensive Forensic Training Academy.

“The Academy of Forensic Nurses recognizes that this legislation addresses areas of needs, in terms of forensic evidence collection for all victims of interpersonal and other violent crime – child abuse, sexual abuse (children and adults) domestic violence, elder abuse, strangulation, assault and others. We are excited to support health care professional education that is dedicated to improving the response to sexual assault, domestic violence and other violent crimes, and understands the importance of quality forensic evidence collection to better support successful prosecution of perpetrators and justice and safety for victims in order to ensure all patients who have experienced violence/trauma have access to trauma-informed care and forensic services.” said Catherine Rossi FNP-C, RN, MSN, SANE-A, SANE-P, DF-AFN President, Academy of Forensic Nursing.

"If passed, the Ensuring Forensic Care for All Victims Act would enable programs like the Alaska Comprehensive Forensic Training Academy at the University of Alaska Anchorage to provide much needed training for a broad array of healthcare professionals to serve some of our most vulnerable communities. I am proud of the work of Dr. Trujillo and her colleagues in fostering a movement that benefits Alaskans in a truly meaningful way. Her work is a great example of how public universities can help address critical issues impacting communities, states and our nation," said Sean Parnell, Chancellor, University of Alaska Anchorage.

This legislation would:

  • Authorize $11 million a year for four years through the Health Resources and Services Administration at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in conjunction with the Office for Victims of Crime at the Department of Justice for demonstration grants to support clinical training of healthcare providers to administer medical forensic examinations and treatments to survivors of interpersonal violence of all ages.
  • Direct the Secretary of HHS to establish a State and forensic provider technical resource center to provide technical assistance to healthcare providers and community health aides to increase the quality of, and access to, generalist forensic services by entering into contracts with national experts, such as the Academy of Forensic Nurses.
  • Require a national report to be submitted to Congress on the need throughout the United States and territories for increased access to generalist medical forensic services, evidence collection, and documentation that aids meeting the needs of healthcare patients as well as improves future law enforcement investigation and prosecution.

For a one-pager on the bill, click here.

For full text of the bill, click here.

Endorsing Organizations: Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Academy of FN, Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, Alaska Children’s Trust, Domesticshelters.org, Safe House Project, Forensic Nursing Network, End Violence Against Women International, HEAL, Victims Voices, SchoolHouse Connection, National Network for Youth, Victims for Justice, the University of Alaska, Victims for Justice.