In the Emergency Department: Recognizing and Responding to Signs of Human Trafficking

Red Flags for Human TraffickingIt is estimated that more than 20 million people worldwide are victims of exploitation and of sex trafficking or labor trafficking. Human trafficking is not the same as human smuggling. Smuggling is a violation of immigration laws. Trafficking is a violation of human rights. Victims are females and males, children and adults, foreign nationals and US citizens.

One remarkable aspect of this tragic situation: Approximately 88% of trafficking survivors report that while being exploited they had contact with a healthcare professional.

Trauma Informed Care

Addressing this startling statistic is an organizational structure and treatment framework that emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both victims and their healthcare providers, and helps survivors rebuild a sense of control and empowerment. It is called Trauma Informed Care (TIC).

This team-based approach involves the victim, healthcare professionals, service providers, and law enforcement collaborating to deliver victim-centered care. The protocol has two goals: First, to treat the health effects of trauma and, second, to minimize traumatization associated with the criminal justice process by providing the support of victim advocates and service providers to empower survivors as engaged participants. Decisions are based on each victim’s knowledge, traumatization, and wishes.

USACS is confronting the issue of human trafficking, along with other healthcare organizations. Partners include Dignity Health, where we deliver emergency medicine services at Dignity Health hospitals Woodland Healthcare and Mercy Medical Center Merced. Dignity Health’s Humankindness program is dedicated to delivering compassionate health services to the poor and disenfranchised, many vulnerable to trafficking. A key initiative of the program involves educating physicians and staff to recognize red flags and respond with victim-centered care informed by each individual’s trauma.

To see what USACS can do to help you address trafficking and other critical issues in your ED, contact us today.

Additionally, it is important to know that the National Human Trafficking Hotline is available 24/7 to report suspicion, seek support, and inquire about local resources: 888-373-7888. Hotline specialists speak English and Spanish with access to 200+ languages using a 24-hour tele-interpreting service.