Hospitals on Front Lines of Human Trafficking Crisis

January 20, 2020 By: Bob Atlas, President & CEO
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Fact: victims of human trafficking are seen in our hospitals and other sites of care every day.
Your caregivers are on the front lines of this crisis. Studies show with certainty that survivors of trafficking are likely to have contact with the health care system during their abuse. One study found 88% of trafficked women and adolescents saw a physician during their exploitation. Sadly, none were identified as victims of human trafficking by the providers they encountered.
We hope to change this pattern by giving our caregivers the tools they need.
A bill introduced in Annapolis last year would have mandated that hospitals adopt protocols for human trafficking. Our hospitals felt a prescriptive approach was not warranted. So, MHA joined with Maryland’s Human Trafficking Task Force, the University of Maryland Safe Center For Human Trafficking Survivors, and forensic nurse examiners and child abuse experts from your hospitals to produce the first update to the state’s human trafficking guidelines since they were released in 2015.
As human trafficking becomes better understood as a public health issue, more resources and best practices are being applied to aid public health response. Some of these tools are included in the guide and on MHA’s website. Go there to find a list of resources from credible local, state and national organizations to help in your efforts.
The guidelines, released today, focus on caring for survivors in a trauma-informed manner, following the SIRV framework—Serve, Identify, Respond and eValuate. They offer a step-by-step guide to equip your people to meet the needs of survivors, deliver care, and to support and empower these patients.
Aligned with the Joint Commission’s directive that all hospital staff know how to identify victims of human trafficking, the guidelines explain when to involve law enforcement and what resources are available.
It’s a matter of when—not if—you’ll encounter a victim of human trafficking.
Together, we can help to lessen the terrible impact in Maryland. And perhaps, in time, we can help eliminate human trafficking altogether.