Delaware Public Media

Delaware hospitals coordinate to combat human trafficking

May 8, 2019

Delaware’s medical community is organizing a statewide effort to combat human trafficking.

The Delaware Healthcare Association’s Human Trafficking Medical Committee formed about 15 months ago with representatives from public health and all nine of Delaware’s hospitals. Officials say it’s the first coordinated statewide effort against human trafficking in the country.

According to the nonprofit trafficking hotline Polaris Project, 88% of all human trafficking victims receive medical care while they are being trafficked. The Delaware committee announced a list of protocols Wednesday for identifying and caring for those victims.

St. Francis Hospital’s Director of Care Management and Social Work Annamarie McDermott is co-chair of the committee.

“We do view this medical committee as a support for health care providers at all levels across the state of Delaware to begin responding in a meaningful way to suspected victims of trafficking,” said McDermott. “So the first is awareness—that we are seeing them—and the next is having a comfort level of what to do when you suspect it."

To increase awareness in hospitals, the committee is recommending human trafficking 101 training for hospital staff. Bayhealth Forensic Nurse Clinical Coordinator Dawn Culp is another co-chair. She says this means looking for red flags and asking questions to identify human trafficking victims.

“We want to let the staffing know that when a patient comes in that if they have somebody that’s accompanying them that they need to be able to see if this patient can answer their questions effectively, unlike if that person is accompanying them and they’re answering the questions for them,” Culp said.

The committee is also encouraging Delaware hospitals to work collecting reliable human trafficking data.

It expects hospitals to start rolling out the recommended policies in the next year.

The committee is also backing a bill before lawmakers that would expunge criminal offenses for human trafficking victims.