Change of Law: Hospital Action Required
|Hospital Chief Nursing Officers, Legal Counsel, and Government Affairs Staff
Please forward to staff in charge of services for sexual assault survivors
|Alicia B. Eyler, JD, Policy Director – Health Access, Government Affairs
AliciaE@wsha.org | (206) 577-1821
|New Law Impacting Hospital Sexual Assault Services
This bulletin is to inform hospitals and health systems about Engrossed Substitute House Bill (ESHB) 1109, which provides additional rights to survivors of sexual assault when they present at a hospital seeking services. The rights of survivors of sexual assault are expanded to include:
- The right to receive written notice about eligibility for benefits under the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund, and
- The right to receive a referral to an accredited community sexual assault program for survivors who are adults or connection to services in accordance with the county child sexual abuse investigation protocol, in the case of a survivor who is a minor.
- Review this bulletin, and specifically section four of ESHB 1109, to understand the new requirements.
- If you are not already in regular communication, contact your local community sexual assault agency immediately to determine how you plan to make referrals when a sexual assault survivor presents at a facility seeking medical treatment relating to the assault. Develop a process to implement the referral process for sexual assault survivors.
- Implement a process to provide sexual assault survivors with standard information about benefits under the crime victims compensation program, using the form developed by the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy.
The 2021 legislature unanimously passed a ESHB 1109, supporting survivors of sexual assault. New requirements in this legislation spanned three main themes, including (1) updates to case status to improvements to investigations by law enforcement; (2) annual review of case files (subject to availability of funds) to improve law enforcement and prosecutors’ interactions with survivors to optimize outcomes and training; and (3) expansion of the rights of sexual assault survivors.
Section four of ESHB 1109, relating to the expansion of rights for sexual assault survivors, is of particular importance to hospitals and health systems. Specifically, two new rights are created in law and must be implemented by hospitals:
- Right to Receive Written NoticeA medical facility providing treatment services to a survivor of sexual assault, related to the sexual assault, must give written notice to the survivor that they are eligible to receive a medical forensic examination at no cost and may also be eligible for other benefits under the crime victim compensation program. WSHA successfully advocated that this notice be developed by the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy so that the information provided is accurate and uniform.Here is a link to the resources published by the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy in Washington: https://www.commerce.wa.gov/serving-communities/crime-victims-public-safety/office-of-crime-victims-advocacy/ocva-publications-library/. This includes the PDF form Information for Sexual Assault Victims and Providers.
- Right to Receive a ReferralESHB 1109 expands the rights of sexual assault survivors to include the “right to receive a referral” to an accredited community sexual assault program. For victims who are minors, the requirement is the right to receive a connection to services “in accordance with the county sexual abuse investigation protocol under RCW 26.44.180…” and may include a referral to a children’s advocacy center.During negotiations, WSHA’s government affairs team expressed concerns with the vagueness of this language – particularly around the “right to receive a referral” and expressed some concerns with how hospitals will be operationalizing this process. Ultimately, this language was not changed. Therefore, we recommend directly communicating with your local community sexual assault agency to determine an effective and standard way for your hospital to meet this requirement.
Under a law effective in 2020 (RCW 70.41.367), hospitals who do not provide sexual assault evidence kit collection or do not have providers available to provide these services at all times, must have a plan in place to dictate how staff will coordinate care with the local community sexual assault agency to help survivors in these instances, receive services. Hopefully, the relationships developed through the implementation process will serve to assist in helping to build a new referral process at your hospital. For more information, here is the link to WSHA’s 2020 bulletin.
WSHA’s 2021 New Law Implementation Guide
Please visit WSHA’s new law implementation guide online. The Government Affairs team is hard at work preparing resources and information on the high-priority bills that passed in 2021 to help members implement the new laws, as well as links to resources such as this bulletin. In addition, you will find the Government Affairs team’s schedule for the release of upcoming resources on other laws and additional resources for implementation.
- Legislative background details and legislative text of ESHB 1109.
- Brochure – Information for Sexual Assault Victims and Providers (OCVA).
- Washington State Department of Commerce, Office of Crime Victim Advocacy (OCVA).
- Link to Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (WCSAP).
- WSHA’s 2020 bulletin discussing services for sexual assault survivors.
- OCVA Resources Page (including sexual assault brochure in various languages).
- Harborview Center for Sexual Assault & Traumatic Stress website – including educational and training resources and professional guides.