Ending the cycle: Trauma-informed health services for victims/survivors of human trafficking. A multidisciplinary response
Human trafficking is a growing global public health issue and an egregious violation of human rights. Victims of human trafficking, which include men, women, and children in all 50 states and worldwide, experience a range of acute and chronic physical and mental health issues resulting from their trauma. Even though nearly every clinic and healthcare setting will likely see victims of human trafficking at some point, trauma-informed mental health services and medical care is an ongoing gap in the healthcare field. Due to lack of provider training and implementation of survivor-oriented care, many trafficking victims who seek healthcare services characterize their interactions with healthcare providers as re-traumatizing, deeply threatening their continued access to needed services and support.
Victims of human trafficking experience psychological severe trauma and psychiatric disorders such as acute, chronic, and complex post-traumatic stress disorder, severe depression and generalized anxiety disorder, dissociative episodes, impulsivity, mood lability, and somatization. Victims also often suffer from alcohol and other substance use disorders and are at high risk for suicide. Also, many victims experience trauma-bonding with their traffickers and may present in pre-contemplative stages of change with reluctance to leave their current trafficking situations. Integrated health services need to be an integral part of the immediate and long-term care strategy for trafficking victims incorporated within and working synergistically with other acute and preventative health care needs. This presentation will discuss an integrated, trauma-informed approach to victim-centered care which uses nationally adopted survivor informed best practices that address and combat the many barriers to adequate healthcare for trafficking victims, including victim stigmatization, trauma-bonding, and insufficient provider training. The key to this model of care is multidisciplinary partnerships with qualified community agencies that assures a supportive referral process and ongoing wrap-around services for recovery. We will also discuss the efficacy and lasting benefits of this program for survivors and share tools for the implementation of similar programs at clinics nationwide.