Having police detectives, forensic nurses, psychotherapists, case workers and empowerment teachers working in one building, all helping children who have been sexually abused, will benefit the community, says Maureen “Mo” Basenberg, executive director of Safe Passage.
“We’ll all be talking real-time about the cases, which will improve and expedite outcomes for the kids and families,” she said.
Safe Passage will hold a ground breaking Tuesday on a $2.7 million remodel of the former Rocky Mountain Health Network building at 2335 Robinson St., to turn it into the organization’s larger and improved Children’s Advocacy Center.
“This is a model of service that many communities strive for but not many communities can achieve,” Basenberg said. “It’s a financial commitment, it’s a risk, it’s trusting in this process, it’s a bit of a leap of faith.”
Locating different agencies in one space brings cohesiveness to the process of meticulously and sensitively determining whether a child has been sexually abused, and the medical, legal and social-emotional ramifications that follow, she said.
The setup constitutes best practices, said Sarah Hagedorn, manager of the forensic nurse examiner team at UCHealth in Colorado Springs.
“It’s the national standard,” she said. “It’s kind of a one-stop shop to ensure all the right people are present and we can minimize the trauma the child might be experiencing.”
The 13,344-square-foot building is being gutted and reconfigured as the new headquarters for Safe Passage, a 26-year-old organization that coordinates medical, legal and investigative services for abused children from infancy to age 18, and developmentally delayed adults.
The environment will be kid-friendly and family-friendly, organizers say.
Also under construction are offices for workers from El Paso County Department of Human Services, Colorado Springs Police Department, UCHealth, Kid Power and The Family Center of Colorado Springs.
Safe Passage has not been able to provide forensic medical exams or mental health services on site before, Basenberg said.
UCHealth will have specialized nurses who have additional training to work with victims of violence doing forensic medical exams and provide comprehensive medical care, Hagedorn said. They also will do education and community relations, she said.
Licensed clinicians from The Family Center will perform crisis intervention and ongoing therapy for children.
The agencies will lease space from Safe Passage, except human services, paying a fair market value per square foot, and share utilities and property management costs, Basenberg said.
The project is scheduled to be completed in mid-October.
“Having a place for victims and their families to access multiple service providers in one location is extraordinary, instead of having to travel to multiple locations for various services,” said Natashia Kerr, spokeswoman for the Colorado Springs Police Department.
“When anyone in our community, especially children, are victims of crimes, they deserve the best level of service possible," she said. "This new center will serve as a safe place that helps deliver the care, attention and service they deserve.”
Safe Passage’s office has been in a Victorian house at 423 S. Cascade Ave., since forming in 1995.
The relocation effort started about four years ago, with the past two years being negotiations and coordination, Basenberg said.
“We’re a small nonprofit, and it’s a big undertaking.”
Preparations included a group trip to Phoenix, where Basenberg ran a co-located center of services.
Safe Passage took out a loan to get the project going and has launched a fundraising campaign to raise the $2.7 million. The organization paid an additional $625,000 for the property and is under contract to sell its current office, Basenberg said.
“As our population and community continue to grow, a side effect is the opportunity for abuse and families needing resources,” she said. “In the 26 years we’ve been here, we’ve seen year-over-year increases in our services.”