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Dignity Health Tackles Human Trafficking As It Becomes A Growing Public Concern

This article is brought to you by Dignity Health

It's no small job to which the Sisters of Mercy are dedicated. Founded in Dublin, Ireland, nearly two centuries ago, the sisters have embraced education, health care, pastoral and social services for all, including those without financial resources. Among the critical social justice concerns to which the Sisters of Mercy dedicate themselves, the widespread denial of human rights is but one.

The Sisters of Mercy first established a single hospital founded on the belief that all people deserve medical care, regardless of their background, ethnicity, or circumstances. One facility became many, expanding to serve a rapidly growing population. This network of hospitals eventually became Dignity Health, one of the nation's largest health systems.

This family of care facilities remain committed to keeping the human person at the forefront of modern medicine and public health issues. As such, it has made human trafficking a priority initiative.

Alarming Growth in Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is "a grave violation of human rights" affecting men, women and children throughout the world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Yet, as the Dignity Health Foundation points out, this modern version of slavery is the world's fastest growing criminal enterprise – a $32 billion industry with an estimated 21 million victims worldwide, according to UNICEF. In the U.S., as many as 100,000 to 300,000 children are at-risk for being trafficked every year.

This heinous crime which exploits the most vulnerable in society, is a top FBI priority, with Los Angeles and Sacramento, California among the first dozen cities currently targeted to implement the FBI's latest anti-trafficking initiatives in coordination with the federal departments of state, labor, and justice. The FBI has identified the San Francisco Bay Area as among those regions in the U.S. with the highest density of child sex trafficking.

Education and Awareness

The Dignity Health Foundation, in partnership with Dignity Health, is taking a critical role in educating and increasing awareness of human trafficking in the health care arena. Recent studies indicate that virtually all trafficked persons will have a health care encounter at some time. Dignity Health wants to take that opportunity to identify the victims, help them escape traffickers and get the support they need to begin their journey toward healing.

The Dignity Health Foundation has created clinical protocols and procedures involving nurses, physicians, case workers, chaplains, community health workers and leaders, from emergency rooms to security teams. Launched in March 2015 at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, Calif., two victims were identified in the first two days of the program's introduction.

Dignity Health Human Trafficking Program

A long-term vision and sustainable strategy for the groundbreaking Dignity Health Human Trafficking program is being achieved through strategic partnerships in the Bay Area. At Mercy High School Burlingame, students participated in outreach S.O.A.P. (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution) during Super Bowl 50, providing hotels with a help line telephone number wrapped around a bar of soap. Elsewhere, partnerships range from fundraising with the San Francisco Giants in support of Not For Sale Day to the dissemination of training programs to other hospitals throughout the region.

Hello Humankindness

You can join other individuals and organizations to help address this issue. The Hello Humankindness project by Dignity Health highlights how we can all help by removing a trafficker's ability to find potential victims, as well as identifying and assisting potential victims. Be especially aware during major sports events and other large gatherings, where activity and classified ads aimed at potential human traffic victims increases.

  • Community. Volunteer your services with a local organization, such as Sisters of Mercy, that supports vulnerable populations in your community.
  • Compassion. If you see something that isn't right, a controlling companion, assault, or abuse taking place, it's possible the person is a trafficking victim. Contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

This article was written by Laurie Jo Miller Farr via for CBS Local Media

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