Discussion centers on how Syracuse expanded care for child abuse
In its third installment of Rotary Community Chat, the Syracuse Inner City Rotary Club discussed child abuse and health care with Dr. Ann Botash from SUNY Upstate University Hospital.
Botash currently teaches as a professor of pediatrics at SUNY Upstate Medical University and also serves as the director of the Child Abuse Referral and Evaluation Program (CARE) at McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center. Botash said she decided to specialize in child abuse care because during her residency at SUNY Upstate in the 1980s, she saw a lack of trained professionals in that area.
“I noticed we had a lot of children coming in for suspected sexual abuse, and we had no specialists for sexual abuse,” Botash said. “There were lots of gaps in the system.”
Botash added that she wanted to streamline the process of reporting child abuse. She said she witnessed children having to recount their experiences repeatedly: to medical professionals, to police officers and to child welfare agencies, which took a toll on the children.
Participants in the chat brought up past well-known cases in Syracuse – like Imani Jennings, a toddler beaten to death by her mother’s boyfriend in 2008. The chat comes one month after 24-year-old Ryan Lawrence was accused of kidnapping and killing his daughter Maddox.
The conversation delved more broadly into health care in the Syracuse area. Theardis Martino, one of the founding members of Syracuse Inner City Rotary, talked about growing up in Syracuse and witnessing how the health care landscape of the area has changed over time.
He expressed concerns that members of his community don’t feel like they have access to the services provided by CARE and Upstate University Hospital.
“Our community has a tendency to see things as out of reach,” Martino said. “One of the things I think we need to establish is a direct pipeline to this doctor right here,” he said, pointing at Botash.
Other attendees at the chat echoed his concerns. Louise Poindexter, a long-time resident of Syracuse, mentioned how in the past, she remembers Upstate as having a reputation for turning away patients if they didn’t have insurance.
Martino suggested that Botash and her office participate in community outreach events in Syracuse, to publicize the existence and services of CARE.
The concept for the monthly chat came from Rotary members observing a need to connect people from the inner city with people from institutions who are trying to make a change.
The group introduced the chat in January with Aggie Lane, a member of the Urban Jobs Task Force. Last month, the club featured Tim Eatman, the co-director of Imagining America. For the next installment, Leola Rodgers, the president of Syracuse Community Health Centers, will lead the discussion on April 25.
— Article and photos by Ashley McBride, The Stand Staff reporter