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Health Care Response to Human Trafficking

January 31, 2019

Human Trafficking impacts thousands of people across the globe, the United States, and Maine. At the Health Care Response to Human Trafficking conference — cosponsored by Preble Street, the New England Coalition Against Trafficking, the Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) program, and the University of New England Advanced Nursing Education (SANE) — leading national and regional speakers from the health care profession, as well as a survivor of human trafficking, spoke on statewide human trafficking trends, survivor needs and co-occurring disorders, identification within the health care setting, and collaboration strategies. The purpose was to educate medical professionals on how to recognize patients who are being trafficked and connect them with the support and services they need.

“Human Trafficking is a human rights issue. It’s an economic issue. And it’s a public health issue,” said Preble Street Executive Director, Mark Swann, speaking at the event. “As the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes states, poverty is one of the primary factors contributing to trafficking. Anti-trafficking work is anti-poverty work. It’s housing first work. It’s harm reduction work. And it’s about creating access to compassionate medical care. We know from a 2014 Global Centurion study that 88% of victims are seen by a healthcare provider while they are trafficked, and 63% of these victims have visited emergency room departments for care. Because victims of trafficking seek medical attention for the consequences of assault and neglected health conditions, health care settings are an ideal place to identify and meet the needs of survivors, and emergency clinicians are in a unique position to recognize victims and intervene. Too often, however, survivors continue to go undetected in these settings. Each of us, as part of the human race, has a responsibility to ensure that neighbors, loved ones, family, and strangers can live with integrity and purpose, free from fear or degradation, free from oppression.”