Chelsea IrizarryApr 25, 2018, 9:05 pmApr 25, 2018, 9:07 pm

Northwell Health pilot program trains hospital staff to identify sex trafficking victims

Several cases have already been identified since the initiative began

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HUNTINGTON — Lawmakers and healthcare officials are taking new strides when it comes to combating human trafficking on Long Island.

Human trafficking is an issue often thought of as happening somewhere else, but Legislator William R. Spencer says that’s not the case.

To combat the issue, Suffolk lawmakers passed legislation to raise human trafficking awareness among healthcare professionals.

“If we train health professionals on health trafficking, we can help equip them to intervene and provide a path from victimhood to survival,” Spencer said.

The Department of Health services will work with Dr. Paulus, a champion of the cause in developing the educational materials

“There was a recent John Hopkins study saying 95 percent of emergency room physicians have never received training on sex trafficking,” Dr. Paulus said.

County officials and Northwell Health professionals have launched a new human trafficking response team and task force. As Dr. Paulus says, a study shows 88 percent of human trafficking survivors come into contact with healthcare providers but were not identified as victims.

“A lot of organizations are envious our position, the victims are coming to us, all we need to is recognize these red flags and indicators and making a difference in their lives,” Dr. Paulus said.

Dr. Paulus says Huntington hospital is the pilot program and the team plans to eventually roll out the training and resources to the rest of the 23 hospitals in the healthcare system

Training will take up to six months and includes live training as well as computer module training. The training will educate healthcare staff and physicians about “red flags” to look out for and available resources.

Judy Richter who is on the Huntington Hospital Task Force Northwell Health has already identified several cases of human trafficking since receiving training.

“I thought it was a great idea, but I didn't think it was happening in our area it wasn't until after we received the training that we quickly identified five cases in human trafficking,” Richter said.

Healthcare professionals and county officials say this legislation will create a safety net for these victims and give them an opportunity to reclaim their lives.

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