State officials and representatives from the medical community were on hand Friday for the opening of the Children's Justice Center satellite clinic at the Central Mississippi Family Health Clinic in Meridian.
The new clinic is for abused or neglected children in Lauderdale and surrounding counties, where they may receive expert medical evaluations in a less traumatic setting.
"There hasn't been a lot of training of, historically, for medical professions to recognize the sexual abuse and be able to evidence the abuse for when and if it reaches the courts to increase the conviction rates," said Rickie Felder of the Mississippi Department of Human Services. "But it's also just as important, I think, that it's less traumatic for the children."
Numbers from the Mississippi DHS show there were more than 19,000 referrals of child abuse or neglect in 2006, involving more than 30,000 children. Nearly 1300 of those cases came from from Lauderdale and five surrounding counties. Three hundred thirty-five of those cases were confirmed.
Lawmakers passed Senate Bill 3024 that authorized the University of Mississippi Medical Center to create a center of excellence to provide care for abused and neglected children throughout the state through a number of resources like the satellite office in Meridian.
"It makes me feel sad that this abuse is going on, but what I am proud of is the fact that we can stop the abuse and identify through this type of facility those children," said Burton, "and help them heal and no create a cycle of abuse that goes on from generation to generation."
Johnson and Johnson is providing the funding to the UMC Children's Justice Center to operate the satellite clinic in conjunction with Rush Health Systems.
"This is a problem that is community wide and and it stretches outside of the Meridian and Lauderdale County area," said Shalotta Sharp, RN, and coordinator for SANE. "This goes into multiple communities and Rush is in multiple communities, so this is something we can be a part and not only help our small community but branch out to other parts of the state."
Referrals from local law enforcement, medical providers and DHS are accepted at the new clinic.