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Core Competencies for Human Trafficking Response in Health Care & Behavioral Health Systems

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office on Trafficking in Person (OTIP) has released the Core Competencies for Human Trafficking Response in Health Care and Behavioral Health Systems. Research shows that individuals who are experiencing trafficking are likely to seek health care during or around the period of their exploitation. These core competencies pinpoint skill sets that health care and behavioral health practitioners (HCPs) should acquire to identify, respond to, and serve individuals who have experienced trafficking and individuals at risk of trafficking.

Click here to access.

National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center (NHTTAC) is offering free training about trafficking as well as offer resources, and information about COVID-19 in the field on their website. They also offer SOAR Online – a series of on-demand continuing education/continuing medical education training modules that you can complete in your own time. They discuss the SOAR framework, how to apply it to identify individuals who are at risk of, currently experiencing, or who have experienced trafficking and connect them with the resources they need. Access the full CE/CME information and start your online training.

Department of Homeland Security Launches New Center for Countering Human Trafficking

WASHINGTON—U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Chad Wolf announced the opening of the DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking, the U.S. government’s first-ever integrated law enforcement operations center directly supporting federal criminal investigations, victim assistance efforts, intelligence analysis, and outreach and training activities related to human trafficking and forced labor.

The center, which has been operational since early September, is based in Washington and led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a global leader of criminal investigations into human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The center will be staffed with law enforcement officials from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and across DHS, as well as subject matter experts and support staff from 16 DHS components—all focused on the “4 Ps” of the center’s mission: prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships.

“Human trafficking is modern day slavery. There is no other way to say it,” said Acting Secretary Chad Wolf. “The words are strong because the actions are evil. The forms of exploitation, sex trafficking, forced labor, and domestic servitude that constitute human trafficking are antithetical in every way to the principles of human dignity that Americans hold dear. The launch of this Center for Countering Human Trafficking represents the investment of resources, attention, and time by President Trump to combat and dismantle all forms of human trafficking.”

On Jan. 15, Wolf signed and released the DHS Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, the Importation of Goods Produced with Forced Labor, and Child Sexual Exploitation ( which pledged to bolster DHS efforts to combat human trafficking and forced labor.

“Human Trafficking, whether through sex or labor, is a detriment to our society and threatens the moral conscience of our nation. Criminal organizations target those who are most vulnerable and exploit them through any means necessary, Victims are treated as commodities rather than human beings, with no regard for their health and well-being,” said ICE Senior Official Performing the Duties of Director Tony Pham. “ICE, along with our internal and external partners, will continue to fight against these atrocities and answer victims’ cries for help. The Center for Countering Human Trafficking will serve as evidence that when we work collectively against such heinous acts, we combat the threat they pose to national security and to public safety.”

ICE’s HSI has long been a global leader in investigating human trafficking and sexual exploitation cases and bringing offenders to justice. The Center will build on the agency’s “victims first” approach, which balances victim identification, rescue and support with prevention, investigation, and prosecution of traffickers. ICE HSI is uniquely positioned to utilize criminal, immigration, and trade-based authorities to proactively identify, disrupt and dismantle cross-border human trafficking organizations.

In fiscal year 2019, ICE initiated 1,024 human trafficking and forced labor related cases which led to 2,197 criminal arrests. These effective actions resulted in nearly 700 convictions and the rescue of more than 400 victims.

Reporting suspected sexual or labor exploitation can help decrease or stop further victimization, as well as lead to the identification and rescue of other possible victims. To report suspicious activity or instances of sexual abuse or exploitation, contact your local law enforcement agency. Tips can be submitted online at, by phone at 866-DHS-2-ICE or by contacting your local ICE office.

For more information about the Department of Homeland Security’s overall efforts against human trafficking, visit

“It’s on Us”: Health Care’s Unique Position in the Response to Human Trafficking

by Jenn Lukens

Human trafficking, as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “involves force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Referred to as a form of “modern-day slavery,” human trafficking occurs in every state and is not limited by the size of a community. While there is debate about the exact dollar amount, the industry generates profits into the billions, making it one of the most profitable crimes in the world. It has been identified as a public health concern by researchers, federal agents, and healthcare professionals alike.

Click here to read part one of a two-part series on human trafficking in rural America.

Training to Identify and Respond to Human Trafficking

The Administration on Children and Families created SOAR to Health and Wellness Training to create a community-level public health approach to individuals who have experienced trafficking.  SOAR – an acronym for Stop, Observe, Ask, Respond – provides an online training curriculum in English and Spanish with course credits available.  Resources and trainings for indigenous populations are available through SOAR for Native Communities.

Wrapping Up Human Trafficking Awareness Month with Resources

Human trafficking can happen anywhere and to anyone. Sometimes it takes place at the hands of someone the victim knows.

In Pennsylvania, state agencies and organizations are working together to put an end to human trafficking within the state and nationally.

Human Trafficking is the most rapidly growing organized crime in the world. In 2016, 40 million people were victims of human trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 10,949 cases called in in 2018.In Pennsylvania, The Hotline receive 630 contacts regarding human trafficking in 2018, with 275 cases reported. These numbers are not indicative of the full scope of victims, since not all cases are identified or reported.

What is Human Trafficking?

Adults and children can be trafficked or enslaved and forced to sell their bodies for sex. People are also trafficked or enslaved for labor exploitation, for example to work on a farm or factory or in a house as a servant, maid, or nanny and receive little to no money for their work 10-16 hours every day of the week. The crime of human trafficking must involve the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

PennDOT Response

PennDOT is one of the first transportation agencies in the country to train employees to recognize the signs of a potential trafficking situation and how to report it to the authorities. To date, PennDOT has trained 564 driver license and welcome center employees, as well as almost 15,000 transit agency employees in human trafficking awareness. In 2018, PennDOT took the USDOT pledge to “Put the Brakes on Human Trafficking” and became a member of the National Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking initiative.

Visit PennDOT’s human trafficking landing page for more information on the initiative and helpful links.

Get the Facts & Spot the Signs

Polaris provides resources for human trafficking prevention and tracks data that can be used for targeted systems-level strategies to disrupt and prevent human trafficking. They provide myths, facts, and statistics to help better explain what human trafficking is and dispel common misconceptions.

Keep Kids Safe provides additional information on human trafficking in Pennsylvania, as well as how to spot the signs of human trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Report It

If you witness or are a victim of human trafficking, get in touch with the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Call 888-373-7888, or text “BeFree” to 233733. 

The Pennsylvania Office of Victim Services provides help for victims of human trafficking who need to find local service programs, financial assistance, or visa assistance.

Download and print human trafficking awareness posters from the Pennsylvania State Police

Poster Size Version (17×11)
Letter Size Version (8.5×11)

Nonprofits, Medical Profession Tackle Human Trafficking as a Health-care Crisis

Washington Post, Jan. 4, 2020 at 7:30 a.m. EST


An emergency room patient has a broken bone. Could she suffer from human trafficking, too?

Thanks to a growing call to treat trafficking as a public health problem, an ER worker who treats a trafficking victim might be able to connect the dots.

Trafficking occurs when someone exploits someone else sexually or makes them perform labor against their will. According to the United Nations’ International Labor Organization, an estimated 24.9 million people are being trafficked worldwide. The vast majority are women, and 1 in 4 victims are children.

Because of a lack of data, it’s difficult to estimate how many victims live in the United States. In 2018, the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which is operated by an anti-trafficking nonprofit group called Polaris, helped identify more than 23,000 survivors. That’s thought to be just a tiny fraction of the real number.

Trafficking doesn’t just jeopardize human freedom — it threatens public health. Victims experience injuries, sexually transmitted diseases and problems with everything from cardiovascular health to teeth. Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions are also common.

Trafficking happens under the table, but its survivors come into contact with health-care workers more than you might think. One study found that nearly 88 percent of victims interacted with a health-care worker while being trafficked.

There’s a growing push among doctors, paramedics and other health-care professionals to help end trafficking. Organizations such as HEAL Trafficking, a group of survivors and professionals in 35 countries, are teaching health-care systems to identify potential victims and respond to their needs.

In 2018, Congress passed legislation that created a federally sponsored trafficking-related continuing education program for health-care workers. The SOAR protocol trains health-care workers to Stop, Observe, Ask and Respond to potential trafficking and teaches them how to connect victims to needed care and relevant services. Data collection also is improving because of recently implemented diagnostic codes that allow health-care providers to identify cases of suspected and confirmed trafficking.

It will take more work to end trafficking, but change could well start in the doctor’s office.

If you are being trafficked or suspect someone else is, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888, or text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733.