In response to a growing number of patients who are victims of intimate partner violence, sexual assault and human trafficking in the area, Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson is opening a new unit specially outfitted for examining and interviewing those patients — the first of its kind in Baltimore County.
Set to open Thursday, the 2,500-square-foot unit includes two examination rooms and one interview room for investigators to speak with patients.
Laura Clary, the clinical program manager at GBMC, said the new unit is separated from the rest of the hospital so that patients aren’t near the “chaos” of the emergency room.
Before this unit was created, the program’s staff could only examine one patient at a time, and would intake patients through the emergency department, Clary said. Now, as patient volume increases, the hospital can handle more patients and keep them in a quiet and calm environment, she said.
“It really is a specialized service that we provide here,” Clary said.
The unit, which cost around $605,000 to complete, did not require new construction. Rather, it was the re-purposing of existing hospital space. GBMC spokesman John Lazarou said the funds came from the hospital’s operational funds and donations.
Clary oversees the sexual assault forensic examination, or SAFE, and domestic violence program at GMC. The program has 19 forensic nurses who are trained in evidence-based and trauma-informed care for treating patients.
Since 2016, the program has helped around 370 victims of intimate partner violence and 280 victims of sexual assault each year, according to hospital officials. Since April 2019, the program has cared for 15 victims of human trafficking.
Clary said it’s good for the hospital to have a specialized unit for treating victimized or traumatized patients. Patients are "brought to a calm and quiet area so we can focus on their needs, and so they can feel safe, and they can feel secure,” she said.
The unit is designed to be “not so hospital, not so clinical” so that patients and family can feel more comfortable, she said.
One of the examination rooms is designed for pediatric patients, equipped with stuffed animals and books for children, although it won’t be used exclusively for children, Clary said. Both exam rooms are equipped with an array of diagnostic testing materials, Clary said, so forensic nurse examiners can stay with patients the entire time they are providing care.