Dignity Health releases human trafficking response resource for hospitals

San Francisco-based Dignity Health published a 52-page manual on its Human Trafficking Response Program, including internal victim response procedures, to help other hospitals and health systems establish similar programs.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 7,500 tips of human trafficking in 2016 alone, up from 5,500 in 2015. The U.S. Department of Defense calls it the world's fastest growing crime, Dignity Health wrote in a news release. In fiscal year 2016, Dignity Health staff identified at least 31 people with high or moderate indicator levels of human trafficking victimization.

Healthcare providers can play an important role in intervention. A study in the Annals of Health Law found nearly 88 percent of sex trafficking survivors reported having some form of contact with healthcare professionals while they were trafficked.

"Trafficked persons are often overlooked even though most survivors report that they have visited a healthcare setting at least once while being trafficked," said Holly Gibbs, Director of the Dignity Health HTR Program and a human trafficking survivor. "Dignity Health has developed a victim-centered, trauma-informed program based on actual cases because we believe that healthcare providers can provide a critical step in identifying and supporting trafficked persons. Our goal is to share our best practices with other systems so that one day human trafficking response programs like ours will be a standard offering at all hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country."

Dignity Health launched its HTR Program in 2014 across the system to educate staff, implement protocols and strengthen communities against human trafficking. The program includes educational modules and victim response procedures that engage hospital staff and physicians, first responders and the community. So far the HTR Program has been implemented in nearly 40 Dignity Health hospitals across three states. Implementation began in emergency departments, followed by labor and delivery and postpartum departments. The health system's leaders are now working on establishing the program in its clinic settings, physician offices, residency clinics, community centers, outreach sites and a sexual assault treatment center.

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