Peters Discusses Growing Human Trafficking Problem in Michigan

DETROIT, MI – Today U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) spoke at Wayne State University Medical School to discuss the growing human trafficking problem in Michigan and bipartisan legislation he introduced to better train health care professionals to recognize the signs of trafficking in their patients. Peters was joined by Wayne State University Vice President of Government and Community Affairs Patrick Lindsey, Interim Medical School Dean Dr. Jack Sobel and Angela Aufdemberge, President and CEO of Vista Maria, a nonprofit organization that works with the Michigan Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force to provide services and treatment for victims of trafficking.

“Human trafficking is a serious problem in Michigan, and we need a coordinated approach that brings together law enforcement and health care professionals to successfully combat trafficking,” said Senator Peters. “Doctors and nurses are in a unique position to identify victims of trafficking, and this legislation will provide critical resources to train medical professionals to recognize and offer help to victims right when they need it most.”

Peters recently introduced the Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Act of 2015 with Republican Senator Bill Cassidy (LA). 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.

“Wayne State University was glad to host Senator Peters’ announcement of a bill he introduced on the important issue of human trafficking,” said Patrick Lindsey, Vice President of Government and Community Affairs at Wayne State University. “Clearly there is an important role for the medical profession to play, and his legislation will help train those professionals to identify and treat victims of human trafficking. We look forward to working with the Senator to address this very important issue.”

“Providing health care professionals with the tools and knowledge to identify and advise victims is key to stopping human trafficking,” said Angela Aufdemberge, President and CEO of Vista Maria. “Every person a child comes in contact with should be able to recognize the signs of trafficking, and this legislation will help make sure that health care professionals are prepared to help fight these horrible crimes. I thank Senator Peters for his leadership on this critical effort to end human trafficking in Michigan and around the world.”

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.

Peters also recently cosponsored the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, which provides emergency shelter for young people, and helps service providers learn to identify victims of human trafficking. Last year, Michigan received more than $2 million in funding supported by this bill for programs in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Traverse City, Bloomfield, Mount Clemens, Mount Pleasant, Muskegon, East Lansing, Marquette and Ann Arbor to support homeless and at-risk youth.