Training Healthcare Providers in the ER to Recognize and Prevent Human Trafficking

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Chief Nursing Officer, Joe Alvarado MSN, RN, NEA-BC explains why he has made it his mission to bring anti-trafficking advocacy to our frontline healthcare providers.

Our organization’s co-founders, Dr. Harvey Castro, MBA, and Lori Guerrero, MBA, MHA, RN sought out to create a better healthcare environment. A healthcare environment where healthcare team members like myself, could do what I’ve always sought out to do: provide exceptional healthcare and ensure that nothing interferes with our ability to heal patients who are sick, injured, or in need of help. Our slogan at Trusted Medical is: Doing the right thing, for every patient, every time. This includes those patients who are victims of modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

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Human trafficking yields many victims with an overwhelming 600,000 to 800,000 victims per year. The state of Texas ranks second in the country for trafficking, with more than 300,000 annual victims statewide. The city of Dallas ranks second for trafficking, with an estimated 400 teenagers sold for sex every night on the streets of Dallas. Human trafficking is a yearly 99 million dollar illegal industry.

In efforts to combat this, Trusted Medical engages in anti-trafficking advocacy through the education and training of our frontline healthcare providers to increase awareness and recognize, treat, and report these cases. Studies show that 88% of trafficking victims seek healthcare while being trafficked. Of those, 63% seek care in the emergency room setting. With that being said, the training and protocol that we have developed is a resource to inform and support planning for critical response and make a life-saving difference at that moment.

Another important aspect of combating trafficking includes networking. We have been able to sponsor Restored Hope Ministries, a local organization that rescues, restores, and heals women to normal lives who have been affected by the adverse conditions of sexual exploitation and trafficking.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated trafficking due to increased online sexual exploitation of women and the socio-economic stress placed upon families. Thus, a surge in the number of individuals who will become newly at-risk to exploitation and trafficking is expected, placing those vulnerable individuals at an even higher risk.  

How can you help support the fight to end human trafficking? Start with education, become well informed. Volunteer and support anti-trafficking efforts in your community. If you believe you may have information about a trafficking situation: Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free number at 1-888-373-7888: Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocates are available 24/7 to take reports of potential human trafficking. You can also text the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 233733. Message and data rates may apply.

Joe Alvarado Trusted Medical preventing human trafficking

Joe Alvarado, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, is the Chief Nursing Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Trusted ER with a passion for human rights and a concentration in human trafficking prevention.