EAST LANSING, MICH. - Nearly three weeks after MSU's Board of Trustees directed the university to move with "the utmost urgency" in establishing a $10 million fund to provide counseling services to Larry Nassar's victims, little is known about how that fund will operate.
However, the fund has a name — the MSU Board of Trustees’ Healing Assistance Fund — and the university expects to finalize its details within a week, Jason Cody, a Michigan State University spokesman, said on Wednesday.
Following MSU's Dec. 15 announcement of the fund, some women and girls reached out to the Michigan Attorney General's Office, which prosecuted Nassar, for information about the fund, said Andrea Bitley, a spokeswoman for the office. MSU told the AG's Office on Dec. 27 that the fund had not been set up, she added, and no additional information has been provided since.
Attorneys representing some 140 women and girls suing MSU related to Nassar have expressed frustration to MSU's outside counsel over a lack of information about the fund, according to emails the State Journal obtained. They also expressed concern that their clients would have to contact MSU's attorneys to access the fund and about how much control MSU would have over services paid for.
Cody said the university is moving as quickly as possible to set up the frame work to administer the fund and make the $10 million accessible. Once that has been done, he said, more information will be provided and those trying to access the fund will be able to contact someone at the fund, possibly a fund administrator, and not university attorneys.
Cody said any ancillary or administrative costs associated with the fund will come from sources other than the $10 million that the university set aside at the end of December.
The intent of the fund is help victims access resources where they live and that make the most sense for them, Cody said, but exactly how much control MSU has over what gets paid for is still being worked out. He added that whether the fund will reimburse for previous counseling services is still being worked out.
And the university has yet to finalize how it will determine who can access the fund, Cody said.
Some of the women and girls who say Nassar abused them have filed civil lawsuits, some have contacted police, some have done both and it's possible that some have done neither. Some say Nassar abused them at MSU, at USA Gymnastics events, at Twistars gymnastics club in Dimondale, at Nassar's home or elsewhere.
Nassar, 54, of Holt, worked for MSU and with USA Gymnastics for decades. More than 140 women and girls have said Nassar sexually assaulted them, some saying it happened decades ago and nearly all saying it happened during medical appointments.
In November, he pleaded guilty in state courts to sexually assaulting nine women, including eight who had been patients. In December, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison on three federal child pornography charges.
Those events renewed calls for independent investigations of MSU, which have now been joined by calls for MSU President Lou Anna Simon to resign.
On Dec. 15, a week after Nassar was sentenced in federal court, Brian Breslin, the chairman of MSU's Board of Trustees, said the board members were "deeply saddened by the stories of abuse" and were "genuinely sorry for what happened" to the women and girls who say Nassar abused them.
"To express our concerns for and commitment to these brave young women, we are establishing a $10 million fund for counseling and mental health services and instructed the MSU leadership team to accomplish this with the utmost urgency," Breslin said.
Some of the women and girls who are suing the university and who say Nassar abused them have been critical of the university's response since sexual assault allegations against Nassar were made public in September 2016.
Between 1997 and 2015 at least seven women or girls say they raised concerns about Nassar's actions to coaches, trainers, police or university officials. He was investigated twice by police but never charged, and at least once in an internal MSU inquiry that cleared him.
Starting later this month, Nassar will be sentenced in Ingham and Eaton counties on the sexual assault charges. He faces a minimum sentence between 25 and 40 years in prison and a maximum sentence of up to life.
Four days have been set aside for victim-impact statements during Nassar's sentencing in Ingham County.
Here’s a timeline of Nassar’s decades-long career and the allegations against him. This will continue to be updated.
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© 2017 Lansing State Journal