St. Joseph’s Health announced a partnership with the US Department of Homeland Security on the Blue Campaign, a national awareness and education initiative designed to prevent human trafficking and protect exploited persons.
As a part of the Blue Campaign at St. Joseph’s Health, Emergency Department staff members will receive training and implement protocols on detecting and preventing human trafficking, protecting victims, and prosecuting traffickers.
"With the fourth busiest emergency department in the country, St. Joseph’s Health is uniquely poised to play a key role in detecting, reporting, and stopping human trafficking, a critical issue for vulnerable populations,” says Kevin J. Slavin, President & CEO, St. Joseph’s Health. “Every day, hospitals and health systems unknowingly treat victims. Now our clinicians and staff members are armed with the tools to engage with victims and get them the help they desperately need.”
Human trafficking, which involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act, is increasingly affecting our communities. A global crisis, human trafficking affects an estimated 27.6 million people worldwide. Most trafficked persons in the United States interact with the medical system primarily in the Emergency Department because they lack medical insurance, do not hold regular or legal status in the country, or lack access to other medical care. Despite frequent contact with trafficked persons, ED personnel historically have not received adequate education and training on how to address human trafficking.
“Partnerships like the one with St. Joseph’s Health are a crucial component of DHS’s strategy to prevent and detect human trafficking,” says Department of Homeland Security Center for Countering Human Trafficking Director Cardell T. Morant. “Front line healthcare personnel are among the most likely to encounter trafficking victims, and raising awareness of what to look for is an important tool the Blue Campaign can provide. I am confident that this will serve as a model for future cooperation and help us further our mission to protect victims, and ultimately prevent human trafficking crimes.”
While the Emergency Department can be a challenging place to care for trafficked patients due to the nature of the busy, fast-paced environment, research shows that, if staff are adequately trained and protocols are in place, the ED can be an ideal setting to engage these individuals. The Blue Campaign will be implemented in St. Joseph’s Health Emergency Departments at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, NJ, and at St. Joseph’s Wayne Medical Center in Wayne, NJ. The campaign will engage over 400 emergency clinicians and staff over the next several months.
“Training our emergency team and giving them the tools to identify and assist victims is critical in the fight against human trafficking,” explains Nilesh Patel, MD, Chairman of Emergency Medicine at St. Joseph’s Health. “Victims come to us for care, but they’ve been slipping through our fingers when we can and should be saving their lives. The Blue Campaign enables us to better recognize the indicators of human trafficking and respond quickly and appropriately for the best possible outcome.”
The New Jersey Hospital Association, a not-for-profit trade organization committed to delivering support and services to the state’s hospitals and providers, lauded the Blue Campaign and St. Joseph’s continued leadership in caring for the most vulnerable.
“New Jersey hospitals are helping to break the cycle of abuse and exploitation for victims of human trafficking,” says New Jersey Hospital Association President and CEO Cathy Bennett. “Thanks to New Jersey’s strong leadership and programs like this partnership between St. Joseph’s and the Department of Homeland Security, victims have a safe space to seek help – backed by trained hospital teams delivering expert care and compassion.”