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Justice Department taps SART coordinator for national initiative

SART coordinator Cassie Burgess, left, is pictured with Sister JoAnn Eannareno, Vice President of Mission Integration at St. Joseph Hospital, and the hospital’s SART telemedicine technology, which enables forensic medical experts from UC Davis to weigh in on sexual assault examinations.Nurse Cassie Burgess, coordinator of the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) at St. Joseph Hospital has been dedicating extra hours beyond her hospital duties for a worthy cause. A few years ago, Burgess, who has served as the SART coordinator at the hospital for 20 years, was selected to serve on a team of individuals nationwide to help rewrite national protocol for Native Americans

SART is a program that provides child and adult medical forensic exams for survivors of sexual assault and/or molestation. Part of the reason Burgess was chosen to serve on this team is because of SART’s work providing sexual assault response services to rural Native American populations like the eight reservations and Rancherias in Humboldt County.

According to Burgess, a third of Native American women will be raped in their lifetimes, a figure that is startling and one that extends to local Native American populations as well.

Because of her experience working in the development of rural SART teams and their sustainability, the U.S. Department of Justice sought her out to help develop a national committee to oversee the tribal law act and implement new protocol for Native Americans.

Burgess has been to meetings everywhere from Southern California to Arizona and Colorado, and currently participates in site visits to rural reservations throughout the United States to help with the development of their official assault response teams. Additionally, Burgess has been nominated to serve on the Justice Department’s peer review committee to assess legislation regarding violent crime to women and children on reservations.

"It’s just incredible that I’ve been able to be a part of this initiative," Burgess said, adding that she thanks St. Joseph Hospital for providing a home for SART for so many years.

"We are very proud of Cassie’s work with the Justice Department," said Traci Siler, director of Emergency Services at St. Joseph Hospital. "Her work epitomizes our health system’s commitment to the value of ‘justice’ and enables us to further our reach into the community, and beyond. Through her we are extending our healing mission into communities we never dreamed of reaching."

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