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DOJ Review: North Carolina Now Reimbursing For Rape Kits As Required

Nick de la Canal / WFAE

North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety is now reimbursing hospitals for rape kits as required. That’s the conclusion of an inquiry by the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women that came after WFAE reportednurses at hospitals said they weren’t being reimbursed for sexual assault exams.

Credit Sarah Delia / WFAE
The inside of a sexual assault kit. Each envelope asks for individual pieces of evidence.

The Rape Victim’s Assistance Program is now responding faster to reimbursement requests from nurses at hospitals across the state. The program, which is housed in the Department of Public Safety, covers the costs of rape kits so that survivors are not billed.

The Office on Violence Against Women looked into the state’s reimbursement process after nurses said the state was asking for unnecessary information about rape victims, such as case numbers from police agencies and detailed medical records for reimbursements. The concern was that those inquiries could be a violation of the Violence Against Women Act. As part of that law, states can’t require victims to pursue a rape case with police in order to reimburse hospitals for doing the forensic exam. 

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners at Cone Health in Greensboro and Atrium Health in Union County said they started to receive an influx of reimbursement checks after WFAE reported on the problem in August. Assistant Director of the state’s Victims Services Department Liddie Shropshire refused to do an interview, but answered questions by e-mail. She said the program reviewed the needs of nurses who do these kits and “makes timely responses to the provider requests.”

The program is also updating billing labels to help hospitals identify these reimbursement checks.  The Department of Public Safety has said a personnel change led to the backlog in reimbursements.

The Rape Victims Assistance Program also plans to use the newly launched statewide sexual assault kit tracking system in its reimbursement process but didn’t specify how.