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Three sexual assault centers merge to enhance services
LEWISTON — On October 1, 2011, the Rape Education and Crisis Hotline (REACH) of Oxford County, the Sexual Assault Crisis Center (SACC) of Androscoggin County and the Sexual Assault Victims Emergency Services (SAVES) of Franklin County are merging into one agency, according to Bill Lowenstein, President of the Board of the new agency: Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services.
“The merger team and the new board spent a great deal of time choosing the name of the new entity. Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services describes exactly what we do—we work to prevent sexual assault from occurring through our prevention education programs. But when sexual assault does occur, we have a wide range of programs to respond to the needs of people affected by it.”
“Despite the name change, the agency will continue to do business as SAVES in Franklin County, REACH in Oxford County, and SACC in Androscoggin County. These names are well known in their communities, and continuing to use the local names will help the services to stay recognizable and accessible to the people who need them,” Lowenstein continued. “In addition, the agency will keep its existing offices in each county and will maintain the current staff in each area under the direction of Marty McIntyre, Executive Director of the new agency. Prevention and intervention services will continue with collaboration and coordination among the service areas to strengthen and support those programs.”
The Board of Directors of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services is made up of representatives from Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties. There will also be an Advisory Council established in each county to provide ongoing input to programming and community support for awareness and fundraising initiatives. Money raised locally will continue to support local programming, while the potential for new grants will provide benefit to all three counties.
“The job of the board will be to set direction for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services and ensure that services remain available throughout the three counties. Our commitment is to maintain the current level of services and look for opportunities to strengthen and expand programs across the service area,” said Lowenstein.
The merger process began over two years ago when the State of Maine suggested aligning sexual assault services with Maine’s Public Health Districts. At that time, the Executive Directors and board members from each of the three centers began a process to determine if the merger would best serve people affected by sexual assault, sexual abuse, stalking or sexual harassment, and if it was in the best interests of the agencies. Upon agreeing that this would strengthen and sustain sexual assault services and provide opportunities for growth, the team began a careful planning process to establish the terms of the merger and create the new agency. Throughout the planning process, the three agencies have begun sharing resources in an effort to support current services and achieve efficiencies where possible.
“Over a year ago, the three agencies began sharing responsibility for covering the 24-hour response line. This merged hotline has functioned quite well, responding to the needs of callers over the phone and also at local hospitals and police departments following a sexual assault. Currently, REACH and SACC are offering a joint training for people who want to volunteer as advocates for response line calls. These two initiatives have shown that merging the functions works well and has reduced duplication of effort and saved some money in the process,” according to Lowenstein.
REACH, SAVES and SACC have been providing services to people affected by sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and stalking since the early 1980s. Services include a 24-hour response line; accompaniment to local hospitals, law enforcement and court proceedings; individual advocacy and support groups. The agencies also provide prevention education to local schools on a variety of topics including internet/technology safety, healthy relationships, sexual assault, and sexual abuse prevention.
To access services through Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services, people should call 1-800-871-7741, or 1-888-458-5599 TTY. In the Bridgton/Harrison area, people should call 1-800-213-6937. Cell phone users in Franklin County should call 1-866-740-9516.
For more information about Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services, please call Marty McIntyre at 784-5272.