A Hospital-Based Program’s Efforts to Fill the Gap in Care for Survivors of Human Trafficking

Spring 2022

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C. Nicole White, Katherine Robichaux & Nancy Herrera

HUMAN TRAFFICKING IS A CRIME OF EXPLOITATION involving the use of force, fraud, or coercion (Administration for Children & Families, 2017; Wilks et al., 2021). Examples include physical or sexual assault (force), lying about the conditions or parameters of employment (fraud), or psychological manipulation (coercion). Texas is consistently one of the leading U.S. states in the number of reported human trafficking cases (Office of the Attorney General, 2020; Powell et al., 2017). From 2006 to 2017, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported the majority of received calls (3,634) and reported cases of trafficking (1,021) were from Houston, supporting the need for prevention and intervention efforts in the city (National Human Trafficking Hotline, 2017).

In 2016, as part of a city-wide strategic initiative, Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) created a hospital-based anti-human trafficking program to address Houston-area survivors’ medical, psychiatric, and socials service needs (see Chen et al., 2021 for an in-depth description of the program). Led by BCM faculty Drs. John Coverdale (inpatient psychiatrist), Mollie Gordon (inpatient psychiatrist), and Phuong Nguyen (inpatient psychologist), the BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program (BCM A-HTP) was designed to provide inpatient and outpatient mental health services and support to patients identified as having experienced trafficking. Program staff currently include the three BCM clinical faculty, one BCM research faculty, a social worker, and two postdoctoral fellows. Program objectives include

  • train healthcare providers in the identification and treatment of this patient population,
  • address patients’ social, medical, and psychiatric needs,
  • advocate for hospital and community-based resources, and
  • contribute to the limited body of literature on the topic.