Hospitals Gear Up For New Diagnosis: Human Trafficking

By Michelle Andrews
Kaiser Health News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Northwell Health, a 23-hospital system in the New York metro area is putting programs into place to train staff and provide them with tools to identify and support victims of human trafficking.

Kaiser Health News

The woman arrived at the emergency department at Huntington Hospital on New York’s Long Island after she was hit by her boyfriend during an argument.

Her situation raised concerns among the medical staff, which had recently been trained to be on the lookout for signs of sex trafficking.

An undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, she worked at a local “cantina” frequented by immigrants. Her job was to get patrons drinks and to dance with them, but many workers in those jobs are expected to offer sex, too. Her boyfriend didn’t want her to work there, and that led to the fight, one doctor recalled.

As part of the intake process, the emergency staff asked the 36-year-old woman a series of questions about whether she’d ever had sex for money, or whether she had to give someone else part of what she earns, among other things.

The screening questions were part of a new program at Northwell Health, a 23-hospital system in the New York metro area that includes Huntington Hospital, to train staff and provide them with tools to identify and support victims of human trafficking.

There are no hard figures for how many people are involved in human trafficking, the term used when individuals are forced to work or have sex for someone else’s commercial benefit.

Polaris, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for these people and runs help lines for them, said calls and texts to its national hotlines have steadily ticked up in recent years, increasing the number of cases 13 percent between 2016 and 2017, to 8,759.

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