Lunch raises $113,000 for abused kids' healing

Hospital-based program addresses physical needs

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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In the last 11 months, 96 abused Clark County children have walked through the doors of Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center and found Dr. Kim Copeland.

Copeland has helped each of those children -- victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect -- through some of the most traumatic experiences in their short lives.

She performed physical exams and assessments of the children. She let them know their bodies are OK, that they're OK. And then she helped county prosecutors find justice for those children.

"These cases, many of them, represent the highest-stakes cases," Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik said. "And unfortunately, we have a lot of them in our community."

Copeland's work and the children she has helped were the focus of an hour-long luncheon Thursday at the Hilton Vancouver Washington. Nearly 350 people attended the event and donated $113,000 to the Child Abuse Assessment Team -- the program Copeland leads.

The donations will help pay for the program's operating costs and begin an endowment to ensure the program continues to help Clark County children in the future.

"I think of CAAT as a place where physical healing can happen for these kids," Copeland said.

One year ago, CAAT didn't exist.

Legacy physicians began performing infrequent sexual-assault exams of young victims in 2008 when a local physician who had performed most of those exams moved out of the state. But in 2011, as Clark County was seeing a 33 percent increase in the number of child abuse cases, the hospital realized the community's need was much bigger, Copeland said.

So in October, the medical center created the Child Abuse Assessment Team. The clinic sees children -- from infants to 18-year-olds -- who are, or are suspected to be, victims of physical or sexual abuse or neglect.

Jonathan Avery, Legacy's chief administrative officer, said launching CAAT answered the "single most important need" the hospital has met in Clark County.

In addition to the work at the hospital, Copeland also provides consultations and medical opinions for other state agencies and provides inpatient care for abused Clark County kids staying at Randall Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland.

In all, Copeland said, the CAAT team has served more than 300 children in 11 months.

"We had a need in our community. We had a hole in our justice system," Golik said. "Legacy Salmon Creek, Dr. Copeland and her team stepped up.

"The CAAT team is a gift to our community," he added.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com.