Today’s news:

LICH rape-crisis program to end - Hospital spokesperson: ‘I don’t think there is a value to keeping it open’

Long Island College Hospital will shutter its rape crisis intervention program on June 30, a hospital official confirmed this week.

The cash-strapped Cobble Hill hospital said it instead intends to focus on what it does best: the delivery of primary care to rape victims through its emergency department.

Hospital spokesperson Zipporah Dvash said administrators evaluated the Rape Crisis Intervention/Victims of Violence Program, “and saw there was a duplication of services with other agencies that deliver the same type of service.”

“We determined we weren’t doing it as well as other agencies,” she added.

The program was mostly grant funded, Dvash said.

“There are all kinds of city agencies that have more experience with this—and they do it better,” she continued. “I don’t think there is a value to keeping it open for the sake of keeping it open.”

The program, run in coordination with the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, the Criminal Justice Coordinator’s Office, and the Kings County District Attorney Office, offered a range of social services, including menatl health and housing referrals. It has been run out of the hosital, 339 Hicks Street, for the past 20 years.

Dvash said 99 percent of those using the program did not come through LICH’s emergency room.

“So we had no idea about their medical records, and we thought the victims would be better served elsewhere,” she noted.

Reaction to the program’s closing, first posted on the Cobble Hill Association’s blog, was swift.

“It is unacceptable that our community is losing this vital service for women who have been victims of rape,” said City Councilmember Bill de Blasio.

“I am calling on LICH to immediately reverse this decision and reinstate the Rape Crisis Intervention program. We should be focused on providing better, additional services in our neighborhoods, not cutting them,” the city lawmaker said.

Dvash responded: “The councilman is somewhat misinformed as to what is closing and what is not.”

“We retain our status as a rape crisis receiving unit of the first degree,” she added.

LICH doctors and other staffers recently filed a complaint with the state Department of Health to end the insititution’s affiliation with Continuum health Partners, which manages the hospital. It has been reported that the hospital has a projected loss of $35 million in 2008.

Harriet Lessel, executive director of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, said LICH’s program had been a resource to the entire borough, and its discontinuation will have a lasting effect.

“They were the oldest and largest rape crisis program in the borough. When they started, they were the only one.”

Lessel’s Manhattan-based group aims to end sexual violence and ensure that victims receive the best possible care.

She said follow-up services for rape victims are a critical component to recovery.

“People are traumatized after a sexual assault, and being able to talk to someone about what you are going through—whether acute post traumatic stress disorder or post traumatic stress disorder—it makes a huge difference,” Lessel said.

“We know that rape…it turns somebody’s world upside down,” she added.

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