Advocacy center to open by ‘15

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 9, 2014

Officials said they hope to open Covington County’s first child advocacy center (CAC) by the first of the year, something they’ve worked on for many years.

“We’re at a point now at the CAC where we are getting started with the renovation process,” DHR director Lesa Syler said. “We’re looking at an 8-week renovation time frame; we’ll be able to begin operations then.”

The center will be located in an outbuilding of the Andalusia Regional Hospital, which will be a centralized location for all involved with the program.

The CAC is a partnership among local law enforcement agencies, the city of Andalusia, the county commission, DHR and the district attorney’s office. Collectively, they have put together a multi disciplinary team, Syler said.

“This is a team of individuals from each law enforcement agency, the Department of Human Resources, the district attorney’s office and the hospital, who investigate the child abuse cases,” Syler said. “These are the professionals in the community that will be utilizing the center.

“Really, the center is the facility and that team is the heart of it.”

Officials said they wanted the center to be a fun, comfortable and kid-friendly environment.

In the past, children who were victims of abuse or sexual abuse were examined medically, questioned, and provided counseling in different locations.

The CAC will put all of those services under one roof.

Medical exams have to be done at the hospital and most children are scared and relate the hospital to a traumatic event, APD assistant chief Paul Dean said.

“This will combine the medical exam, the forensic interview and all of the information that the investigators, DHR and the district attorney’s office needs into one location,” Dean said.

That means less trauma on the child and less travel for the family, he said.

“This is the first child advocacy center in Covington County,” assistant district attorney Grace Jeter said.

Jeter expressed how appreciative those involved in the program are for the nurses who have helped with the program.

There are five SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) trained nurses working at ARH, RN director of ER Amy Herrington said.

“That would not have happened without Amy Herrington,” Jeter said.

Herrington is currently the only pediatric nurse with the certification, but others are being trained, she said.

Covington County currently is working under the umbrella of Butler County’s CAC, Safe Harbor.

A local fundraiser to benefit the CAC, is set for Wed., Oct. 29.

The fundraiser, Safe Harbor Box Lunch Delivery, will offer pick-up or delivery of $7 box lunches from the Chicken Shack in Luverne.

The deadline to order is Fri., Oct. 24.

For more information, contact Sandra Gibson at 334-427-7959.