First Step Resource Center, a National Children’s Alliance-accredited children’s advocacy center at Providence St. Patrick Hospital, provides medical evaluations, forensic interviews, mental health treatments, care coordination and referrals for child and adult victims of abuse or assault.
Since 2000, First Step has been dedicated to reducing trauma and promoting healing for child victims of abuse and adult victims of sexual assault in Missoula and surrounding counties.
First Step is part of JUST Response team, a community-wide initiative that brings together law enforcement agencies, Child and Family Services, the County Attorney’s office, advocacy organizations and mental health providers to provide a coordinated, supportive response to reports of abuse and assault. Our services are available to people in Missoula and the surrounding area. This team approach ensures that victims receive a trauma-informed and coordinated response from the multiple agencies that can be involved in a report of abuse or assault. This collaborative response results in stronger investigations and convictions. It also allows for better supportive services for families, including mental health, medical care and advocacy.
Our team is specially trained in treating kids of all ages and helping them and their families get through this particular trauma. We offer the following services to help children and their families.
Coordinated forensic interviewsFirst step is a safe place for children to talk about abuse and tell their story. The forensic interviewer is a nurse who is trained to speak with children about difficult subjects and to ask developmentally appropriate questions. The interview is conducted in a non-leading and non-threatening manner. Investigative agencies may watch this interview from another room. This allows the interviewer to address the questions of other team members.
Family support servicesThe First Step social worker staff aims to meet with families during their child’s appointment. If this is not possible, they provide follow-up for families over the phone. The social work staff works with the family to identify any needs and offers referrals as appropriate. The social work staff may be the compassionate support the family needs at the time of the evaluation and into the future. Learning how to support your child will help in the process of recovery and healing. We offer information to help you understand the dynamics of abuse and how investigations and legal proceedings proceed. We can refer you to other helpful community resources, including ones that can help you address housing or financial needs.
Medical evaluationsThe exam is non-invasive and similar to a well-child check-up at the regular healthcare provider’s office. Often, the most important part of the exam is offering reassurance to the child and family that the child’s body is okay. The medical exam provides an opportunity to answer questions and provide education.
Trauma-informed mental health screening, treatment and referrals
When possible, the First Step social work staff offers the family a mental health screening at the time of the child’s evaluation. Based on the screening, the social worker may offer a therapeutic assessment or provide informed referrals for mental health care in the community.
We provide sensitive, caring guidance and support to adults and teenagers affected by sexual violence.
Medical careA trained nurse or nurse practitioner will meet you at First Step, which provides a safe and private setting. The First Step examiner will provide a comprehensive medical assessment, lab tests, medications to prevent sexually transmitted infections, and educational materials. Examiners will assess and treat injuries and make referrals for follow-up medical care if indicated. Medical care is available even when a patient is not interested in having evidence collected.
Advocacy and assistance
While at First Step, adult survivors of sexual assault are offered a victim advocate. Advocates provide emotional support following an assault and for as long as needed. Advocates provide information about options regarding for medical care and counseling, as well as reporting to law enforcement if you so choose.
We can connect you with law enforcement during your visit, if you wish. If you want to meet with them and talk about the legal process before deciding whether to file criminal charges, that’s an option available to you.
Adults who have been sexually assaulted may access our services without making a report to law enforcement.
Decisions about pursuing justice and filing criminal charges are personal ones. We know the idea of collecting evidence and going through the legal system is daunting, but we try to make the process as straightforward as possible. In general, it’s best to collect DNA evidence as soon as possible after an assault. However, evidence can be collected up to five days after an assault.
First Step medical staff are trained as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs). The nurse examiners provide expert collection of DNA evidence. Depending on a patient’s history, the examiner may collect clothing or blood and urine for toxicology screening. If you or someone you know would like evidence collected, contact First Step as soon as possible. If you have not already showered or used the bathroom following an assault and it is possible to wait, please wait until you meet with a nurse examiner. Please do contact First Step even if you have showered or used the bathroom as some evidence may still be present.
Our staff provides education and outreach throughout the Missoula area. We offer informative presentations on many difficult topics, including rape, child abuse and many others.
If you suspect a child may be the victim of assault or abuse, our Handbook for Caregivers Concerned About Abuse can be a helpful first resource. The handbook offers information about the roles of First Step and other agencies involved in abuse cases. It also covers how to support a child and other community resources available to help.
If you suspect child abuse
- Call 911 for emergencies
- Call Child and Family Services Centralized Intake at 866-820-5437 to make a report
- Call First Step Resource Center at 406-329-5776 to make a referral or request more information