Human trafficking prevention workshops help healthcare workers to spot victims
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The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is encouraging health care practitioners and interested members of the public to take its new online human trafficking awareness and prevention training course.

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The free online course, “Hearing, Evaluating, Activating, Resourcing and Training” (HEART), teaches physicians, nurses and other health care providers how to recognize the signs or red flags of trafficking, support the well-being of at-risk individuals, and understand how trauma impacts overall health outcomes.  

“Health care practitioners in Texas are required to take an HHS-approved human trafficking training for each licensure renewal,” said Kelli Weldon, press officer for HHSC. “Our new course is approved for this purpose, and it is available online, on-demand, and free of charge.

Weldon says the course is targeted for health care practitioners for another reason—they are likely to encounter people who are being trafficked but might not realize their patient is in a trafficking situation.

“Texas HHSC’s HEART course helps practitioners with identifying and assisting people who are human trafficking survivors,” Weldon added.

“We are confident that health care practitioners who complete this new training will be better equipped to identify trafficking, and this will lead to better outcomes for survivors of this devastating crime,” said Michael Roberts, associate commissioner for HHSC Specialty and Family Services.

The course is being offered during National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month (January), the time of years when organizations throughout the nation raise awareness of human trafficking, or the exploitation of people for commercial sex or labor against their will.

According to a 2016 study by The University of Texas at Austin, at any given time there are an estimated 234,000 victims of labor trafficking and 79,000 youth victims of sex trafficking in Texas.

The HEART training is offered as an online, self-paced course to be taken by individual participants. There is no participation limit. The course is available and accessible anytime as the modules are online and self-paced to be taken by individual participants whenever they choose.

House Bill 2059, from the 86th Legislature in 2019, requires HHSC to review training courses on human trafficking for health care practitioners and list approved trainings on its website. Certain health care practitioners must complete an approved course to renew their registration or license.

Due to privacy and permissions requirements Weldon could not reveal the names of participants who have taken the course and shared testimonies, but the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I enjoyed the format; doing one module and testing after each module made the information easier to remember. This training was long overdue for everyone in the healthcare industry.” (Physician)

“Very well-organized training. I liked hearing the personal perspective from the survivor.” (Social Worker)

“Thank you for an informative training. Every professional should have this training to assist human trafficking victims!” (Licensed Professional Counselor)

“It was very informative and eye-opening, and it made me want to help in any way that I possibly can to save a life/lives.” (Speech Language Pathologist)

“This training was very informative, clear, and concise.” (Massage Therapist)

“I was surprisingly interested and receptive to the course.  I also feel it was honest, informative, provided adequate resource information and phone numbers to catalog and have on hand.  Overall, I enjoyed the course and learned a lot.  Thank you.” (Dentist)

HHSC also recently launched the new Stop Human Trafficking public donation account to raise funds for youth survivors of human trafficking. House Bill 2633 from the 87th Legislature in 2021 authorizes the creation of the account to provide grants to facilities committed to the recovery and protection of vulnerable children and adolescents impacted by human trafficking.

“The new Stop Human Trafficking donation fund is currently accepting donations. A grant program to support youth survivors of human trafficking will be created once enough donations have been accumulated to fund a program,” shared Weldon.

For more information about human trafficking, visit the HHS website.

Texas HHSC’s Human Trafficking Resource Center assists agency staff, external stakeholders and people experiencing trafficking in finding resources. The center also serves as the liaison between stakeholders and agency programs on issues regarding human trafficking. HHSC has approved and listed 70 human trafficking training courses produced by a variety of outside organizations, and HEART is the first course produced by HHSC. HEART is sponsored by Texas WIC.