Healthcare Collaborative Against Sex Trafficking

Improving access to quality health care for adult victims of sex trafficking in Milwaukee

Full Project Name:Healthcare Collaborative Against Sex Trafficking (HCAST)Primary Community Organization:Convergence Resource CenterPrimary Academic Partner:Angela Rabbit, DO, PediatricsAward Amount:399,618
Award Date
Project Duration:36 months

Project Description Narrative:

Victims of sex trafficking frequently have myriad health care needs as a result of experiencing physical and sexual violence, reproductive health care problems, mental health and substance abuse issues, and untreated chronical medical conditions. However, in focus groups of women impacted by sex trafficking, participants reported many barriers to accessing health care, including discrimination and breaches of confidentiality, as well as struggles to meet the basic needs for themselves and their families. In addition, 90% of health care providers surveyed did not feel confident in their ability to identify and provide quality care to victims, and many identified victims as criminals. Taken all together, the result is a system that reinforces health inequities for victims.

Following an assessment of current systems, project partners learned that community agencies are unsure how to connect clients to quality health care services, and health care organizations are not connected to community service agencies that can address a significant barrier that prevents victims from prioritizing care: the social determinants of health. Few health care organizations were identified that train their providers and staff in recognizing and caring for victims, and there were no treatment guidelines available for adult victims. In addition, survivors of sex trafficking have not had input into the education and health care protocols that affect them, despite having important information to share about their experiences with health care.

Through this award, project partners, assisted by those with lived experience, will develop protocols and workflow changes, treatment guidelines, and community referral processes as well as a vetting process of community resources by those with lived experience to improve access to quality support and care for adult victims of sex trafficking.

Community partners:
Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, Progressive Community Health Centers, Milwaukee Healthcare Partnership, Milwaukee Joint Human Trafficking Task Force, Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee, IMPACT 2-1-1

Additional MCW academic partner:
Wendi Ehrman, MD, Pediatrics

Project Updates:

  • Started work with the Standard of Care/Protocol and Community Resources workgroups to build a foundation for structural changes within healthcare and community systems
  • Drafted policy and practice recommendations for the care of patients impacted by sex trafficking for primary care centers authored by the Standard of Care/Protocol workgroup, including clear referral guidelines to community agencies that have specialized services for victims and survivors of human trafficking 
  • The Community Resources workgroup has collaborated with the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee (HTTFGM) to create a community resource guide that will be reposited at 211-Wisconsin 
  • The workgroup has identified local and national organizations for the resource guide and the vetting process is underway through interviews of the identified organizations by workgroup members and members of the Survivor Advisory Board. 96% of organizations involved were completely and mostly satisfied with the way the people and the organizations work together in partnership

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8701 W Watertown Plank Road,
Milwaukee, WI 53226-0509
(414) 955-4350