Doors to Stay Open at North County Forensic Health Center

The North County facility was at risk of closing

Victims of child abuse and sexual assault in the North County will continue to receive one-stop care, county and health officials announced Thursday.

After serving the North County for 30 years, the Forensic Health Services Center inside Palomar Medical Center in Escondido was in danger of closing its door because of hospital budget cuts.

On Thursday, District 3 Supervisor Dave Roberts announced that the Golden Door Spa Resort is giving $75,000 to the center. The county will match that amount with a taxpayer-funded Neighborhood Reinvestment Program (NRP) grant, totaling the $150,000 needed to keep the center afloat.

The center is the first step in the investigation of child abuse and sexual assault. The victims are examined and interviewed; the information is then used as evidence for law enforcement.

“There’s probably not a more important and sensitive investigation that law enforcement conducts anywhere in the country than sexual assaults and child abuse cases,” said San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore.

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said closing the center would have caused more trauma to the victims. Instead of getting their initial care in one place, the patients would be taken to various facilities and forced to relive their ordeal again and again.

“If we didn’t have this facility, what that would mean is that these victims who are already vulnerable would have to go downtown or very far distances and would have to go through many services and many versions of what happened to them,” Dumanis said.

“If you were able to visit that facility, you would see the love that is given to them and the environment itself that they can stay in one place,” said Maria McEneany with the Commission on the Status of Women.

The center was set to close Dec. 31, 2013, but Palomar Health managed to secure enough funding to keep it open for the time being.

So far this year, the center has processed about 300 victims, according to hospital officials.

Center staff and county leaders started meeting in January to develop a private-public partnership to fund the facility. The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the NRP grant in July.

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