Family nurse practitioner Donna Timblim, left, at the Hancock Physicians Network in Knightstown and Susan Neeley, Chief Clinical Officer with Hancock Physician Health. Tom Russo | Daily Reporter
Family nurse practitioner Donna Timblim, left, at the Hancock Physicians Network in Knightstown and Susan Neeley, Chief Clinical Officer with Hancock Physician Health. Tom Russo | Daily Reporter
HANCOCK COUNTY — It took almost two years of networking and a little bit of luck, but thanks to an official with Hancock Regional Hospital, the Hancock County Prosecutor’s office will be able to use a $325,000 grant from the Office of Women's Health to help sexual assault victims.

The prosecutor’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) will use the funding to pay for forensic and medical exams for victims of sexual abuse as well as to fund special training for medical personnel.

Thanks to the grant money, county victims who suffer a sexual assault will no longer have to travel to Anderson, some 45 minutes away, or Indianapolis to be examined following a sexual assault. Instead, they will soon be able to go to nearby Knightstown during business hours or Hancock Regional Hospital, the on-call facility, for a full forensic and medical exam.

Prosecutor Brent Eaton and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Aimee Herring created the county’s Sexual Assault Response Team in 2020. After getting community support from law enforcement and other local officials, the only thing they were lacking was funding for proper training for medical officials and a place to examine victims.

That’s where Susan Neeley, Director of Clinical Management at Hancock Physician Network, came to the rescue.

Neeley noted the hospital has a rural health clinic in Knightstown. A few months ago, she learned there was a chance to secure funding for the facility through the Office of Women’s Health and the Indiana State Department of Health for sexual assault exams.

She informed state officials they wanted the money to be used at the rural clinic and started doing research about the need before applying for the grant.

“It was kind of an accident that I even got in contact with Aimee (Herring) because we crossed paths when I was doing some research for the grant,” Neeley said.

Once the two started talking and Herring explained what SART was trying to do and the county’s need, Neely asked Herring to join her, and the two worked on securing the grant.

Herring is the chair of the local SART program, which is a multidisciplinary partnership designed to bring a coordinated response to sexual assault. The goal is to make victims a priority while promoting public safety and holding offenders accountable.

“When I first talked with Susan, I told her our goals and that we were hoping to get the funding within five years, but she said ‘Well, I’ve got something for you that you might be interested in,’” Herring said. “She did a lot of the ground work for the grant, and we were thrilled she did.”

Once the funding arrives, it will be administered by Neeley, who stated she’ll sign off on the funds needed for training to create the program and the purchase of the proper equipment needed.

The facilities in Knightown — about 15 minutes east of the county on U.S. 40 — and HRH will have on-call, trained nurses for adults and adolescents. Officials with HRH will be able to do exams during hours the clinic isn’t open and respond to emergencies in Hancock as well as Henry counties.

Herring noted officials in Henry County were in the same boat as those in Hancock County, without an official location for exams or trained officials, and the grant allows the counties to work together with the thought Rush County may even benefit from the grant.

“This is not something that is exclusive to our county,” Herring said. “It can be region-wide, a real tri-county effort.”

For Eaton, who said they’re still looking for funding beyond 2024 to sustain the program once it gets going, he credited the community support and networking for getting funding for a program that he said is long overdue.

“Law enforcement is not successful in a vacuum,” Eaton said.

“We’ve tried really hard to build positive partnerships throughout the county to improve public safety in a variety of ways, and this is a big step.”

Program members for SART include advocates from each county law enforcement agency, prosecutors, a representative from the Indiana Department of Child Services, Zoey’s Place Child Advocacy Center, Alternatives Inc. and now a sexual assault nurse examiner who will be in either nearby Knightstown or at HRH.

As of 2007, state statute required all counties to have at least an affiliation with a regional SART. While the county had filed protocols with the state, Eaton and Herring felt that Hancock County needed its own SART program and a nearby place where victims can be examined. It’s why they continued to push for the venture over the past several years and felt such relief when the call from Neeley came through.

“It was unexpected,” Herring said.

In addition to the funding, Herring, who is working with the leadership of Hancock County, said one of the programs they’re doing this year is collecting items for victims of sexual abuse during a supply drive coming April 1-23.

Eaton and Herring are trying to stock the closets of the new SART program with things like blankets, underwear for adults;, socks, slippers, robes, bras, sweatshirts, sweatpants, sanitary supplies, individual travel needs, snacks, shampoo and other personal items — things victims might need after an assualt.

“Many times, the clothes they come in with will be needed as evidence,” Eaton said.

For health reasons, they’re asking all donations be new with tags and still in packages. Donations can be dropped off starting in April at the Hancock County Public Library, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, the Greenfield Police Department, the Greenfield Banking Company, the Fortville and McCordsville police departments and the Christian Fellowship in Knightstown.
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