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Trends are hard to spot sometimes. By their very nature, trends move slowly, methodically. Often, it can take years to gauge the result of a “trend,” which doesn’t make for interesting copy. While much ink has been spilled detailing Idaho’s downward trends in education, wealth and opportunity, the Gem State appears to be trending up in two vital areas: healthcare and law enforcement. For a state that values strength and security, those are trends we should all want to preserve. Consider this:

During the 2018 legislative session, lawmakers restored standard dental coverage to 30,000 Idahoans who lost benefits during the Great Recession. This is projected to improve Idahoans’ health and save the state money.

Voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 2 last month to expand Medicaid in Idaho. The benefits are well chronicled.

Earlier this fall, Representative Mat Erpelding announced he will bring legislation to cover Idaho’s first responders under our Workers’ Compensation laws for purely psychological injuries sustained on the job. Right now, they must sustain an accompanying physical injury in order to be treated for post-traumatic stress injuries. The bill already has bipartisan support.

Over the summer, the Idaho Department of Insurance proposed new rules requiring insurers to cover hearing aids and speech pathology for Idaho’s deaf children. This too has bipartisan support going into the 2019 session.

And then there is Idaho’s “Quiet Revolution.”

In just the last few years, Idaho has gone from a national laggard in the way it investigates sexual assault crimes, to a national leader. To be fair, many states were (and still are) wildly deficient in that area. However, Idaho’s progress in processing, analyzing and tracking sexual assault cases is eye-opening.

For starters, Idaho is actually processing sexual assault forensic medical exams – a lot of them. This is not a minor point. Just do a simple search on this topic and you’ll find numerous stories from states where kits continue to collect dust, unprocessed.

For law enforcement, this exam is a key piece of evidence needed to track down and jail perpetrators. In Idaho, those exams are put into a database which allows survivors and law enforcement alike to track the kits as they go through the system. Idaho’s tracking software is being sought by numerous states who are also trying to revolutionize how they deal with sexual assault crimes.

Idaho now has laws on the books requiring exam kits be stored for years – valuable evidence that can be used against serial rapists or anyone else who commits sexual assault. Furthermore, survivors no longer have to worry about their health insurance being billed for the kits. Legislators and law enforcement agree the forensic exams are crime-fighting tools and not “medical” examinations.

While this progress is a bright light on Idaho’s landscape, there is a glitch. It takes specialized skills to conduct and process the exams. Most of the people trained to do this important work are in Idaho’s largest cities. As such, many of Idaho’s sexual assault survivors are forced to travel long distances – away from their homes and support system – to a medical center where the exams can be conducted. As you might guess, many sexual assault survivors skip this journey. Why would anyone want to relive the most traumatic event in their lives all over again during a long car ride?

That’s about to change. And your community can be part of this positive trend.

The Idaho State Police has secured federal grant money to train Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (“SANE”) across the state of Idaho. Importantly, the grant money will be used primarily to train nurses who work in Idaho’s rural hospitals. Once nurses become certified, survivors can receive the exams in their own hometown near family and friends. This is a big step for Idaho’s sexual assault survivors, Idaho’s local medical facilities and Idaho’s local law enforcement community.

This vital training is just around the corner.

SANE certification courses will be held in late January/early February 2019 in the Treasure Valley (Jan. 28 – Feb. 1, St. Luke’s in Meridian) and Pocatello (Jan. 21-25, Portneuf Medical Center). Medical professionals throughout Southern and Eastern Idaho can contact the Idaho State Police at 208-884-7280, or by email at for more information.

Making that phone call not only enhances the services Idaho’s local hospitals provide, it makes the entire community safer.

Idaho, in this respect, is trending in a positive direction when it comes to treating its citizens and law enforcement with dignity and respect. Spread the word and help make this trend permanent.

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Bob Sojka is the communications officer for the Twin Falls County Democratic Party and a former county chairman.


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