CRAWFORD COUNTY, Ill. (WTHI) - Through the doors of an emergency room, survivors of sexual assault can seek help.
"We did have several last year, more than usual," said ER Nurse Tabitha Seaney.
Seaney, a registered nurse at Crawford Memorial Hospital, says they typically see a couple of cases per year when it comes to sexual assault.
According to the Illinois Department of Health, nearly 4,500 people sought emergency room treatment for suspected, alleged and confirmed sexual assault in 2016.
It's a large number, but some say that's not all of the cases out there.
"I think there's probably a lot more than what's reported," Seaney said.
"Too many people are scared of the stigma," said Registered Nurse Shelly Hillard, director of emergency services, "They just really don't even know who to turn to."
House Bill 5245 is looking to change that. The proposal would require hospitals to have a specially trained medical provider available within the first 90 minutes of a patient's arrival. The provider would have to go through training for sexual assault examinations and treatment. Hospitals would be required to implement the change by 2023.
"It will be very difficult to make sure we have a pool big enough to maintain some of the requirements that are coming up," said Chief Nursing Officer Tammy Fralicker, "but we're going to make sure we do everything we can."
Fralicker says it takes about 12 months to complete training for a sexual assault nurse examiner, or SANE nurse.
Because Crawford Memorial is a smaller facility in a rural community, Fralicker says it will be difficult to get nurses trained by the proposed timeline.
"Our biggest challenge is finding the training available to our nurses," Fralicker said, "A lot of it we can send off for training, but it's hands-on training. You have to have that interaction with the patient in order to be able to become a competent SANE nurse, and we just don't have that available in this area."
Currently, Crawford Memorial has one SANE-trained nurse.
"We also have one that is going to begin her training," Fralicker added, "Certification is the next level, which requires a lot more, extensive involvement. We don't have the cases here that they would be able to maintain a certification. So our nurses will become SANE-trained."
Some say they hope the new requirements would help see sexual assault cases through to the end, as well as encourage more survivors to come forward for treatment.
"It breaks down silos between hospitals and the police department, but also the patient too," Hillard said, "That they feel comfortable enough to come to some place to be able to say 'I need help'."
"I just want to make the patient feel safe and give them their control back," Seaney said.
According to the Illinois General Assembly website, HB 5245 is in the House and slated for a 2nd reading on the calendar.