Medical Staff Pulse Newsletter

Human Trafficking Task Force Volunteers


January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month—an opportunity to raise awareness about the $150 billion criminal enterprise and the efforts at Cedars-Sinai through the Human Trafficking Response Task Force aimed at educating healthcare providers and supporting possible victims. 

The task force, which is comprised of volunteer employees from varying departments and service lines throughout the medical center, is seeking additional volunteers.

Task force members work to educate healthcare providers on potential behavioral and physical warning signs displayed by patients affected by human trafficking. They also regularly speak at local and national conferences, training seminars and community events to help other volunteers become community activists.

"Nike, Google, Starbucks and the National Football League combined make $136 billion annually," said Tejal "TJ" Patel, a member of the task force who works in risk management. "But human trafficking is far exceeding this as a $150 billion industry. It's a shocking statistic and further validates our need to raise awareness throughout the medical center and within our community."

There are three main types of human trafficking—sex, labor and organ—and Los Angeles has become one of the top spots in the U.S. for human trafficking, according to Polaris, a national anti-trafficking organization.

The U. S. is the principal destination for human trafficking worldwide and California specifically harbors three of the nation's 10 worst areas for child sex trafficking, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.

Although tracking the numbers of human trafficking victims who come through Cedars-Sinai is challenging, the task force estimates they see at least 10 victims per month in the Emergency Department and last year saw between 150 and 200 patients in total.

"We believe this is a low estimate and that many victims are going unnoticed due to a lack of education,”"said Kelsey McNeill, a clinical social worker in the Emergency and Case Management Department and member of the task force. "The more we educate healthcare providers, the better we will be able to track and monitor the full scope of the problem."

For suspected victims, healthcare providers are asked to use the PEARR tool, which focuses on providing privacy for the perceived victim, educating them about trafficking, asking about the specific warning signs they have witnessed, and then, responding and respecting their wishes, as appropriate.

For interested volunteers, or departments interested in receiving additional training, please contact the Human Trafficking Response Task Force at GroupHTResponse@cshs.org.