Palomar Health's Forensic Health Services Takes On New Countywide Role


Palomar Health’s Forensic Health Services has taken on a new countywide role in the investigation of non-fatal strangulation cases and other forms of domestic violence.

Our trained Forensic Nurse Examiners will perform forensic medical exams for the purposes of documenting injuries sustained during domestic violence assaults, including strangulation. These services will be provided at Palomar Health, San Diego Family Justice Center; or in an emergency situation, authorized by law enforcement, exams may be performed at offsite facilities such as, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, police and sheriff departments, jails, morgues, or alternate offsite exams.

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced an agreement on February 2 that outlines a coordinated community response on handling non-fatal strangulation cases—which show a much greater likelihood of leading to homicide.

“Strangulation is one of the most deadly and personal forms of abuse,” District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said. “It often goes unreported. By coming together with law enforcement, we hope to lower incidents of strangulation, better document occurrences of strangulation, and protect victims.”

“Palomar Health was invited to join our San Diego community partners to identify gaps in the capacity and accessibility for adult and teen strangulation, and domestic violence victims to receive forensic medical examinations,” said Michelle Shores, program manager of Forensic Health Services. “We discovered that these exams do not exist. Thanks to the full support of Vice President of Continuum Care Sheila Brown and Palomar Health our Forensic Health Services team was able to initiate a solution. Palomar Health FHS is participating in a pilot program to provide these forensic exams for San Diego County.”

“We’re excited to have Forensic Health Services as a part of this collaborative protocol,” said Escondido Chief of Police Craig Carter. Their overall level of cooperation has been outstanding.”

The Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNE) will take a full forensic medical history, examine the victim, evaluate and document their injuries, and provide them with proper follow up resources. The FNE will document the injuries by utilizing the California Emergency Management Agency 2-502 form, forensic photography and, if applicable, the San Diego Countywide Strangulation Documentation Form. The FNE will also collect forensic evidence based on the victim’s history.

“We have capacity to perform 130 forensic exams for domestic violence and strangulation,” said Shores. “These exams will be paid for by the California Office of Emergency Services XC Program during the pilot; and there will be no cost to the victims and we have the equipment. We are grateful to our generous donors and our Palomar Health Foundation. This is ground breaking and innovative and I am proud to be part of such an amazing team here with Palomar Health.”

Forensic Health Services at Palomar Health already plays a vital role as one of two Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART) in San Diego County. Our SART team conducts examinations in sexual assault cases that are part of the prosecution’s case against the perpetrator, and has a strong working relationship with law enforcement agencies across North County San Diego.

(Photo: District Attorney's news conference to announce the new strangulation protocol; Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter is in center)

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