Community Medical Centers will begin to provide services specific to the needs of human trafficking survivors starting in January, 2020. The services have been made possible by a three-year, $509,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime. The funding will enable Community Medical Centers to establish safe havens for trafficking survivors in its San Joaquin County locations.
Stockton is a recognized hub for human trafficking activity. In recent weeks alone, the Stockton Police Department announced arrests in two separate cases of alleged human trafficking. Survivors of trafficking — some of whom are preteens — may suffer from physical injuries, sexually transmitted diseases, post-traumatic stress, substance use disorder and many other issues. Some of those being served will also be survivors of domestic violence.
“The need for this program in the community is dire,” said Community Medical Centers Compliance Officer and General Counsel Victoria Felt, the 2020 chair of San Joaquin County’s Human Trafficking Healthcare Workgroup and a member of the county’s Human Trafficking Task Force. “This grant will allow a dedicated person within Community Medical Centers to help make sure these survivors’ needs are met and get them access to the quality, comprehensive care they deserve.”
The Safe Haven project has been in development since 2017, when Community Medical Centers became involved with the San Joaquin County Human Trafficking Task Force. Recognizing that its patient base included survivors of trafficking, Community Medical Centers began creating policies and protocols to better treat these patients as well as developing deeper relationships with the Women’s Center Youth and Family Services, the District Attorney’s Office and Victim-Witness Services.
Operating in collaboration with the District Attorney’s Office, Community Medical Centers will place a community health worker at the Family Justice Center, which serves as a hub for crime victims. The community health worker will help survivors navigate a range of services offered by Community Medical Centers, including primary care, treatment for mental health and substance use issues, dentistry, nutrition, physical therapy, HIV early intervention, Hepatitis C treatment and reproductive health services.
A qualification for the community health worker is to have experience as a victim of human trafficking. Research on mental health peer services has shown human trafficking survivors exhibit signs of healing and gain hope for future success when they receive their care from someone who has endured similar experiences.
“We want to create a place where survivors will feel comfortable accessing care because they know their providers will have a better understanding of some of the challenges they may be facing.” Felt said.
More than 500 patient-facing staff — including 40 providers — will receive training on how to identify and respond to potential trafficking victims. Community Medical Centers is designating care teams at each of its centers in Lodi, Manteca, and Tracy, and all 10 of its Stockton centers. Community Medical Centers anticipates caring for at least 50 human-trafficking survivors in the first year of the grant and serving at least 100 more each year in both the second and third years.