Push to end human trafficking, treat victims grows within CommonSpirit

February 1, 2020


More Dignity Health sites and some Catholic Health Initiatives sites are adopting training for care providers on how to best treat human trafficking victims and other victims of violence, thanks to the systems' merger into CommonSpirit Health.

Dr. Ron Chambers and others developed a model at the Mercy Family Health Center — part of Dignity Health Methodist Hospital of Sacramento in California — to provide trauma-informed care to trafficking victims. He said Mercy Family Health Center is sharing the best-practices guides and other tools that are part of the Medical Safe Haven model with residency programs and primary care centers across CommonSpirit.

Chambers is director of the family practice residency program at Methodist Hospital and medical director of the Mercy Family Health Center. He spoke during a networking phone call on human trafficking on Dec. 12 that was set up by CHA and moderated by Julie Trocchio, CHA's senior director of community benefit and continuing care.

Residency programs at Dignity hospitals in Redding and Northridge, California, are replicating Mercy Family Health Center's care model for victims of trafficking, Chambers said. Based on meetings he has had with graduate medical education leaders from ministries across CommonSpirit, he expects other residency programs to soon do the same. He also expects the resident training will mean that more primary care sites will soon embrace the model.

"We're expanding and have big hopes to spread the Medical Safe Haven clinic model more and really be able to provide comprehensive care to this patient population, which extrapolates to core concepts that apply to all of our patients that have experienced trauma," he said.

Chambers said the Mercy Human Trafficking Clinic run by the health center is providing services, with about 60 patient visits for victims and survivors per month. While the treatment model the health center developed is only a couple of years old, he reports that the clinic has collected evidence that the treatment helps to greatly reduce the likelihood that patients will return to trafficking situations.

Also, CommonSpirit is merging a CHI and a Dignity program related to human trafficking and violence into a pilot program with elements of each. The CHI program called United Against Violence will be blended with a human-trafficking response model developed by Dignity.

"Our programs were so complementary to each other, they really allowed us to create a newly aligned model that would be very holistic in nature," said Laura Krausa, system director of advocacy programs for CommonSpirit Health. She also spoke during the CHA networking call.

The blended model will have elements of United Against Violence, which supports public policy, community-based initiatives, shareholder advocacy and education, and Dignity's response program, which trains care providers on how to appropriately treat trauma victims.

"Putting these programs together really allows us to close the on-ramps — and we're working on human trafficking first — and open the off-ramps so that we help people avoid ever becoming victims but also for those that have, helping them to exit into healthy, good, happy lives again," Krausa said.

Pilots of the new model will be tested at three sites, she said. Two already have prevention pieces in place, so the response piece will be added. At the other, the pilot will start from the ground up.

Details of the CHI and Dignity programs are available on CHA's website. Go to chausa.org/human-trafficking/overview and then click on the resources heading.

Also during the networking call, Caroline Boden, shareholder advocacy manager for Mercy Investment Services, reported that conversations with leaders of several corporations had led to new trafficking-related measures this year. (Mercy Investment Services oversees socially responsible investing for Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.)

Southwest Airlines has made a commitment to train all 59,000 staff members on trafficking awareness and prevention. Boden said American, Delta and United airlines have made similar pledges.

In addition, the trucking firm Penske Automotive Group adopted a policy on trafficking and slavery that encourages employees to "report any concerns within the organization, its vendors or suppliers, including any circumstances that may give rise to an enhanced risk of slavery or human trafficking." The trucking company U.S. Xpress announced a partnership with Truckers Against Trafficking to train about 7,000 drivers to recognize trafficking and alert authorities, Boden said.

The next CHA networking call on human trafficking is set for noon (ET) July 17.

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