First Step Resource Center provides medical evaluations, forensic interviews and referrals for child and adult victims of abuse or assault. First Step is dedicated to reducing trauma and promoting healing for child victims of abuse and adult victims of sexual assault.
For children and families suspecting child abuse
- Coordinated forensic interviews for children
First Step is a safe place for children to talk about abuse and tell their story. The forensic interviewer is a nurse who is trained to speak with children about difficult subjects and to ask developmentally appropriate questions. The interview is conducted in a non-leading and non-threatening manner. Investigative agencies may watch this interview from another room. This allows the interviewer to address the questions of other team members.
- Medical evaluations
The exam is non-invasive and similar to a well-child check-up at the regular healthcare provider’s office. Often, the most important part of the exam is offering reassurance to the child and family that the child’s body is okay. The medical exam provides an opportunity to answer questions and provide education.
- Trauma-informed mental health screening, treatment and referrals
When possible, the First Step social work staff offers the family a mental health screening at the time of the child’s evaluation. Based on the screening, the social worker may offer a therapeutic assessment or provide informed referrals for mental health care in the community.
- Family support services
The First Step social work staff aims to meet with families during their child’s appointment. If this is not possible, they provide follow-up for families over the phone. The social work staff works with the family to identify any needs and offers referrals as appropriate. The social work staff may be the compassionate support the family needs at the time of the evaluation and into the future. Learning how to support your child will help in the process of recovery and healing.
The First Step social work staff offers:
- Education about the dynamics of abuse.
- Education about the investigatory and prosecutorial process.
- Referrals for advocacy.
- Information about community resources.
- Assessment for family needs, such as economic or housing needs
- If you suspect child abuse, you should:
- Call 911 for emergencies.
- Call Child and Family Services Centralized Intake at 866-820-5437 to make a report.
- Call First Step Resource Center at 406-329-5776 to make a referral or for more information.
For adults and adolescents who have experienced a sexual assault
- Medical care
A trained nurse or nurse practitioner meets patients at First Step, which provides a safe and private setting. The First Step examiner will provide a comprehensive medical assessment, lab tests, medication to prevent sexually transmitted infections, and educational materials. Examiners will assess and treat injuries and make referrals for follow-up medical care if indicated. Medical care is available even when a patient is not interested in having evidence collected.
- Evidence collection
First Step medical staff are trained as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs). The nurse examiners provide expert collection of DNA evidence. DNA evidence may be collected up to five days after a sexual assault, but is most likely to yield positive results when collected as soon as possible. Depending on a patient’s history, the examiner may collect clothing. Examiners may also collect blood and urine for toxicology screening. As with DNA evidence collection, the sooner labs are collected, the more meaningful the results will be. If you or someone you know would like evidence collected, contact First Step as soon as possible. If you have not already showered or used the bathroom following an assault and it is possible to wait, please wait until you meet with a nurse examiner. Some evidence may still be present and the nurse will inform you of what she may collect. Please do contact First Step even if you have showered or used the bathroom.
- Coordination with other agencies
While at First Step, adults reporting sexual assault are offered a victim advocate. Advocates can provide emotional support to the client immediately following the assault and for as long as needed. Advocates provide information about options regarding reporting to law enforcement, medical care and counseling. If a person is interested in reporting to law enforcement, she or he may be connected with the agency of jurisdiction while at First Step. Adults who have been sexually assaulted may access our services without making a report to law enforcement. Our staff will help make the connection to law enforcement if requested. It is possible to meet with law enforcement to ask questions about the process prior to deciding about making a report.
- If you have been sexually assaulted, you may choose to:
- Go to a safe place.
- Call the YWCA at (406) 542-1944 if you would like support or are unsure of what to do.
- Go to the Emergency Department or call First Step at (406) 329-5776, open 24 hours a day for a medical evaluation and evidence collection; you may receive a medical evaluation and evidence collection at First Step without making a report to law enforcement.
- Call 911 if you would like to speak with a representative from law enforcement; you may speak with a law enforcement officer or detective without making an official report.
For the community
- Coordination of the multidisciplinary team
First Step participates in the JUST Response Multidisciplinary Team. Made up of law enforcement agencies, Child and Family Services, the County Attorney offices, advocacy organizations and mental health providers to respond to reports of sexual abuse and assault. The MDT meets regularly to ensure effective collaboration and support of victims, clients and families.
- Community education and outreach
First Step Resource Center staff provides education and outreach in the Missoula Community. We have provided educational presentations about: our services, date rape, strangulation, child abuse, forensic interviewing, coordinated team response, and medical evaluations for child abuse and sexual assault education about the process of investigation and prosecution.