Important legislation went into effect on January 1, 2020 that bring important relief and clarifications for SAFE/SANE Teams. This bill was sponsored by Cal SAFE. Assemblymember Marc Berman (D–Palo Alto) carried this important legislation on behalf of Cal SAFE, the California Association of Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners. Cal SAFE received support from the California Hospital Association and California Sexual Assault Investigators Association.
Important clarification for exams for undecided patients/survivors
State law was clear for over 40 years. Penal Code section 13823.95 stated that law enforcement agencies were responsible for paying for sexual assault medical forensic examinations dating back to 1977. In 2012, this statute was amended in response to federal VAWA legislation to provide exams for sexual assault victims undecided about reporting the crime to law enforcement agencies. The amendments to Penal Code section 13823.95 caused financial hardship for SAFE/SANE teams because it stated that all exams could only be reimbursed $300 per exam, and that law enforcement agencies could submit a reimbursement request to Cal OES for the $300. This provision conflicted with local contracts between hospitals and exam teams whereby reimbursement rates range from $1,000 to $1,800 per exam. This was a sleeper for many years. About four or five years ago, law enforcement agencies pointed to state law stating they were only responsible for paying $300 per exam. AB 538, now Penal Code section 13823.95, solved this problem. It distinguishes between two types of exams. Exams for victims who choose to cooperate with law enforcement exams must be reimbursed at the locally negotiated contract rate. Exams for undecided victims must be paid by law enforcement agencies at the locally negotiated rate, and they can submit a reimbursement request for $300 to offset the cost of this exam.
Important clarification for Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners (SAFEs)
SB 538 clarified a mix of existing statutory provisions about who can be sexual assault forensic examiners. They can be registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and physicians, and identified as SAFEs. This means that an LVN cannot serve as an examiner on an exam team. The term “SANE” was created by the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN). Nurses meeting the IAFN qualifications and who acquire 300 clinical practice hours are eligible to take a standardized test to quality as a SANE-A (for adult/adolescent examiners) and SANE-P (for pediatric sexual abuse examiners). Physician assistants and physicians are not eligible to take the exam and they can have a limited membership with the IAFN as associate members. As a result, the professional direction in California is to identify exam teams as SAFE teams. For further details, see Penal Code section 13823.5–13823.11.
Important clarifications for CCFMTC
SB 538 added provisions to the scope of work for CCFMTC: training on strangulation, developing a supplemental standard state form to record findings, developing electronic as well as paper forensic medical report forms, and strengthening the scope of work as it relates to domestic/interpersonal violence, elder and dependent adult abuse, and child physical abuse. For further details, see Penal Code section 13823.93.