May 15, 2001 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

There are smiles all around following a description of the agreement that moves the Mount Emily Safe Center into the Union Family Health Clinic July 1.

It just fell into place, like its meant to be, said Sue Arnoldus, the safe centers executive director.

The center is a place where young victims of sexual abuse can be medically evaluated and interviewed and their families can find information about the legal and emotional road to justice and recovery.

Arnoldus notes that the move to the health clinic will provide the center with more space and be more accessible to children and families.

And, with the health clinics hours and nurse practitioners, the safe center will have easier access to medical assessments, adds Suzanne Trepoy-McCarthy, the centers board president and the system of care coordinator at Services for Children and Families.

For Jeanne Bowden, associate dean of community health care at the Oregon Health and Science University School of Nursing at Eastern Oregon University, the planned collaboration also has some advantages for the clinic.

Some of our nurse practitioners are already trained to assess child abuse victims medically, she explains, and having the safe center at the clinic opens the door to getting more training for more nurses through CARES Northwest. More training in the assessments already is being planned.

Another advantage for the clinic and its staff is that the safe center is using an interactive video-computer to connect with medical assessment specialists when examining children. The clinic staff wants to move more toward tele-medicine in the future, and the safe centers equipment and experience will be an asset.

The agreement to move the safe center into the clinic, keeping it a separate entity, came about as Arnoldus evaluated the financial status of the center.

The centers initial three-year start-up grant is nearly finished. While the center has proven its worth to law enforcement, prosecutors and its clinics, it has yet to secure or raise all the funding needed to keep the doors open at its North Pine Street location in La Grande.

Trepoy-McCarthy said that with current grants nearing their end, the center could be in search of as much as $40,000 within two years. The center does receive $4,000 a year from United Way of Union County.

Were trying to downsize and cut costs, Trepoy-McCarthy said, noting that every budget item is under scrutiny.

The move to the clinic will ease the situation. It will definitely help ease our funding situation, Arnoldus said.

The more we talked about Union, Bowden said, the better a solution it seemed. The clinic is a beautiful facility and has room, and because the community really built the clinic, we felt, lets give back to the community with this service.

Arnoldus agreed, even noting that the community of Union feels safe and, like Bowden, she sees the clinic as a healing place. She checked the idea of moving to Union with those who use the clinic and no one had any problem with the move. The safe center staff said it is grateful to Dr. Chad Lusk, the optometrist who has been providing the center with office space, for letting them out of their rental contract in time for the July 1 move.

A benefit to help cover the centers moving costs is being planned for the evening of May 24 at Joe and Sugars in La Grande. While details of the benefit are still being worked out, plenty of music and fun are promised.

It is exciting, Trepoy-McCarthy said, thinking of the safe center and clinic working side-by-side. And it may be good for future funding, she grinned, since many grant agencies are looking favorably on collaborative efforts.