Dr. Stoklosa: Trafficking Policy Impacts Healthcare

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Dr. Hanni Stoklosa is both an emergency medicine physician at Harvard Medical School and the leader of HEAL Trafficking. She recently discussed how anti-trafficking developments impact health care providers…

Dr. Stoklosa explains that HEAL Trafficking was started in 2013.  It’s vision vision is a world healed of trafficking and our mission is to unify and mobilize interdisciplinary professionals to shift the anti-trafficking paradigm toward approaches rooted in public health and trauma-informed care. Our practicing professional members across the United States tackle issues at the crux of public health and trafficking, including Education and Training, Protocol Development, Research, Direct Services, and Prevention.  

Every day, nurses and doctors across the country are putting their hands on trafficking victims without realizing it. We know that up to 88% of human trafficking survivors interface with healthcare. Yet, most clinicians are not aware of the presence of human trafficking victims within their midst. There should be “no wrong” door for trafficking survivors to enter into healthcare. Whether they show up on a labor and delivery floor, in a community health clinic, or a detox center, all victims of trafficking should be identified.

She says that in the last several years there has been progress regarding awareness of trafficking among clinicians and that HEAL has driven efforts from within.  Some of those initiatives include the Institute of Medicine’s report, professional society policy statements such as the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association statement. In fact, some states now require human trafficking education for clinicians.

The doctor says, “However, as I imagine most of you in the room would agree, awareness is really just the first step. Healthcare must go far beyond awareness to embrace a broader public health approach. We must combat the upstream risk factors and comprehensively tackle the downstream squalene. We need to focus on trafficking as the public health epidemic that it is, and not just a criminal justice issue.”

She shared that a patient at her Boston emergency department illustrates what medical professionals are seeing. A twenty-year-old female who was addicted to heroin was being discharged from a detox facility when she met a man who promised her a supply of heroin. That is when the nightmare began for that woman. Her trafficker locked her in a motel room and forced to serve over 200 men. She escaped and came to Dr. Stoklosa’s emergency department to escape the trafficking. She waited and waited for an opening in a dual diagnosis facility that would be able to help her with both her addiction and depression, the very things that had led her to be trafficked in the first place. But, when there were no beds in sight the woman decided to take her chances on her own. She walked out of our emergency department, back out into the cold. We had a window of opportunity and we lost it.

Stories like this teach us a  few key lessons.

  1. First, trafficking is tied directly to the opioid epidemic.
  2. Second, trafficking is a wakeup call for healthcare to become harmonized and trauma-informed.
  3. Third, trafficking requires robust mental health and addiction treatment.

Dr. Stoklosa said she has seen how addiction and a masterful cunning trafficker can be a terrible combination.

To read the entire article about Dr. Stoklosa, click on the link below.

View Article on Children and Families Human Trafficking Feed

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