Peters’ Bill to Help Identify and Prevent Human Trafficking Passes the Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The bipartisan bill to help identify and prevent human trafficking introduced by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI) and Bill Cassidy (LA) passed the Senate today as part of a broader package of human trafficking legislation. The Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Centers Act of 2015 will establish a pilot program to better train health care professionals to recognize the signs of trafficking in their patients.

“Human trafficking is a serious problem in Michigan, and doctors and nurses are in a unique position to identify trafficking victims,” said Senator Peters. “I’m pleased the Senate has passed this commonsense legislation to provide critical resources to train medical professionals so they can recognize and offer help to victims when they need it most. This program will help make medical professionals more effective partners for trafficking prevention, putting us on a stronger path to ending these horrific crimes in our state and across the country.”

“If our nurses and doctors can better identify victims of human trafficking, they can help bring relief to those suffering in ways that those of us who have never been there cannot imagine. There is still work to be done to stop human trafficking, but this will help,” said Senator Bill Cassidy M.D.

The bill establishes a pilot program to train health care professionals to identify victims of human trafficking. The legislation would award grants to an accredited school of medicine with experience studying and treating victims of human trafficking. The school must consult with law enforcement, social services and other experts to develop best practices for identifying victims of trafficking. The grants would be administered through the Department of Health and Human Services.

Peters recently visited with medical professionals, law enforcement and advocates at Wayne State University and Genesys Downtown Flint Health Center to discuss how this legislation could help tackle Michigan’s growing human trafficking problem.

A 2013 Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking report found that trafficking is a serious and growing problem in Michigan. The Commission identified five key factors that hinder the prevention of human trafficking in Michigan: Inadequate data on human trafficking, gaps within the state’s victim servicing framework, lack of awareness that human trafficking exists, the need to strengthen anti-trafficking policies and the failure by professionals to recognize indicators of human trafficking.

During a July 2013 FBI investigation, more than 150 traffickers were arrested in a nationwide sweep, including 18 traffickers in metro Detroit—more than any other city involved in the operation. This legislation will continue to build on the successful work of programs like the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force to combat trafficking in the United States and around the world.