Smart Tip: Recruiting Medical and Mental Health Providers
Task force members working through the victim services committee should recruit local medical and mental health providers. It is important to screen and do proactive training before they start to work with clients.
The role of medical providers is to promote the health and well-being of their patients. Victims of human trafficking are at risk for a number of health problems and associated health issues that are usually direct results of their victimization.
The forms of abuse that trafficking victims experience include physical, sexual, and psychological abuse; the forced or coerced use of drugs and alcohol; social restrictions and manipulation; economic exploitation and debt bondage; legal insecurity; and abusive working and living conditions. These abuses impact victims’ physical, reproductive, and mental health; may lead to the misuse of drugs or alcohol; diminish their social and economic well-being; and limit their access to health and other support services. Some of the most common health issues include sexually transmitted infections (STI), adverse reproductive health conditions, broken bones, untreated medical conditions, and dental injuries from violence.
Health care providers are in a unique position to identify and assist victims of human trafficking. They may encounter victims of sex trafficking, victims of labor trafficking, and victims who experienced both sex and labor trafficking. As front line providers, health care practitioners may encounter trafficking victims in their daily practices. This is particularly true for public health and emergency room professionals who serve uninsured and undocumented populations.
In many cultures, health care professionals have a trusted and respected status. For this reason, victims may be more likely to disclose their status to a health care provider if they feel safe and believe their disclosure will be kept in confidence. Because traffickers severely limit the contact of their victims, a health care provider may be the only contact the victim is allowed to have with the outside world. For these reasons, task forces should consider providing training to medical providers in their community and partner to provide referrals and services. Recognizing the indicators and understanding the context of trafficking are important for health care providers because these patients could be perceived as uncooperative. It is imperative for health care providers to use trauma-informed care when identifying and serving this population of patients.
For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for Section 4.4 Comprehensive Victim Services.