Missouri Hospitals partner with AG Schmitt: To Reduce Human Trafficking

Press Release
Missouri Hospital Association
The Missouri Hospital Association and the Missouri Hospital Human Trafficking Task Force.

The Missouri Hospital Association and the Missouri Hospital Human Trafficking Task Force, in collaboration with Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, released new resources for hospitals to help caregivers understand and identify the signs of human trafficking. The task force Thursday released a comprehensive toolkit to guide hospitals’ overall efforts, along with web-based video training modules to support hospital workforce education.

“Human trafficking is a scourge, a dark underworld that operates in nearly every corner of the country, trapping victims of all ages and demographics through coercion, force or fraud. To combat an issue as pervasive and widespread as human trafficking, agencies and stakeholders across the state of Missouri must work together,” Attorney General Eric Schmitt said. “Working with the Missouri Hospital Association to develop and provide this toolkit engages another crucial stakeholder that potentially interacts with trafficking victims frequently: medical providers and hospitals.”

The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act defines human trafficking into two types: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. In adults, trafficking requires the elements of force, fraud or coercion. For individuals younger than 18, these elements are not necessary to be included in the definition of trafficking. In 2019, the Polaris Project identified more than 22,000 victims and survivors of human trafficking across the country and saw a 19% increase in calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Research suggests that 88% of individuals caught in the sex trafficking cycle visit a medical provider. More than 63% of these interactions occur in the hospital.

Less is known about those being trafficked for labor and their interaction with the health care system. However, labor trafficking can include individuals forced to engage in a wide variety of tasks from farm, construction and factory work, to retail and restaurant work. As with those involved in sex trafficking, there is no specific profile.

“Individuals caught in the trafficking cycle don’t fit a simple stereotype,” said Herb B. Kuhn, MHA President and CEO. “They are not defined by age, race or gender and can come from rural and urban backgrounds. The toolkit, and associated training modules, are designed to break down misconceptions. They rely on best practices to identify the signs of trafficking and provide a foundation for stronger policies and practices to guide hospitals’ efforts.”

Although opportunities for intervention exist in the clinical environment, removing the individual from the trafficking cycle also requires law enforcement and other community stakeholder engagement. 

Adoption of strong hospital policies, backed by best practices in trafficking identification at the front lines of care, has proven to open a gateway for reducing the harm of human trafficking.

“Everyone has a role to play in rooting out and reporting human trafficking,” Schmitt continued. “Education is crucial to achieving that goal. I appreciate the work that the Missouri Hospital Association has done to help fight human trafficking, and it’s our goal that this toolkit and trainings will equip medical providers with the information they need to identify and aid victims of human trafficking.”

If you suspect human trafficking is occurring or notice something that doesn’t quite seem right, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 888-373-7888, texting 233733 or going online at https://humantraffickinghotline.org/.

For help on recognizing human trafficking, Polaris Project offers tips and information on the signs of labor, sex and other types of trafficking here: https://polarisproject.org/recognizing-human-trafficking/. 

The Missouri Hospital Association is a not-for-profit association in Jefferson City that represents 141 Missouri hospitals. 

In addition to representation and advocacy on behalf of its membership, the association offers continuing education programs on current health care topics and seeks to educate the public about health care issues.