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Committee combating human trafficking in Delaware hospitals looks to domestic violence experts

Delaware Public Media

Delaware hospitals are working with domestic violence experts to train hospital staff on how to identify and combat human trafficking.

The Delaware Healthcare Association’s Human Trafficking Medical Committee is a statewide effort to fight human trafficking in hospitals.  Data shows medical providers are more likely than law enforcement to come in contact with trafficking victims.

According to the nonprofit trafficking hotline Polaris Project, 88% of all human trafficking victims receive medical care while they are being trafficked. 

At a committee meeting this week, representatives from the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCADV) discussed the overlap between domestic abuse and human trafficking and offered advice on training protocols.

Community Health Program Manager Erin Ridout says it’s important for providers to see patients alone and normalize the conversation around domestic violence or human trafficking.

“And they can provide materials or information, resources around what somebody deserves in a relationship and what somebody doesn’t deserve,” said Ridout. “What are some things that are healthy about a relationship? what are some things that are unhealthy? And then really just putting the ball back in the patient’s court and saying, ‘Is this part of your story?’”

Ridout says if the patient reveals they are a victim of domestic violence a handoff is made to a community service provider to respond to the incident.

Like domestic violence, human trafficking prevention may rely on this grant-funded community service provider program to respond to incidents identified in a medical setting.

DCADV Executive Director Sue Ryan says she hopes this program will eventually be funded through the Delaware’s Medicaid program.

“We’re hoping that as the state rolls out its value-based system, that in fact this is a service that can be billed to insurance and Medicaid, and I know the human trafficking community has that same interest,” said Ryan.

Delaware has been screening for domestic violence in hospitals since 2000.

Human Trafficking Committee officials say they’re surveying Delaware hospitals ahead of rolling out human trafficking training programs across the state.

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