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