Community Medical Centers is set to receive more than $500,000 in federal funds starting next year to provide services tailored to human trafficking survivors in San Joaquin County.
The three-year grant comes from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime and will enable CMC locations throughout the county to establish safe havens, according to a CMC news release.
CMC began development on the Safe Haven Project in 2017 when it became involved with the San Joaquin County Trafficking Task Force, the release said. The medical centers recognized that trafficking victims existed among its patient base and wanted to create better policies and protocols to give them the care they needed, while also developing deeper relationships with community partners like the Women’s Center Youth and Family Services and Victim-Witness Services.
“The need for this program in the community is dire,” Victoria Felt, CMC compliance officer and general counsel, said in the release.
Stockton is recognized as a hub for human trafficking activity, the release said, citing two recent cases resulting in multiple arrests connected to alleged trafficking in recent weeks by the Stockton Police Department.
A 13-year-old girl who was reported missing from the Bay Area and believed to be a victim of human trafficking was found by police in Stockton on Dec. 13, resulting in two arrests. Three days later, two more people were arrested in connection with a 22-year-old woman who told Stockton police officers she was a victim of human trafficking, according to a police department Facebook post.
“Unfortunately, over the last several years we have seen some serious cases of human trafficking involving young teenagers,” said Joe Silva, Stockton Police Department spokesman.
CMC says trafficking survivors often suffer from physical injuries, sexually transmitted diseases, post-traumatic stress and substance use disorder, among many other issues. This influx of federal grant money is anticipated to allow CMC to care for at least 50 survivors in the first year of funding and at least 100 more in each of the following two years.
Training will be provided to more than 500 staff who directly deal with patients, including 40 providers, on how to identify and respond to potential victims, the release said. Designated care teams also will be set up at each of CMC’s Lodi, Manteca and Tracy centers and all of its 10 Stockton centers.
The federal grant money also will help fund a collaboration between CMC and the San Joaquin District Attorney’s Office to put a community health worker at the Family Justice Center in downtown Stockton, which serves as a one-stop location for an array of services that help victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual assault and child and elder abuse.
“This grant will allow a dedicated person within Community Medical Centers to help make sure these survivors’ needs are met and get them access to the quality, comprehensive care they deserve,” Felt said in the release.
The health worker will help victims of trafficking navigate a range of CMC services, the release said, such as primary care, mental health and substance use treatment, dentistry, nutrition, physical therapy, HIV early intervention, Hepatitis C treatment and reproductive health services.
Research shows that human trafficking victims have better mental health and healing outcomes when they receive care from someone who knows what they’ve been through, so the new community health worker must also have experience as a victim of human trafficking.
Said Felt: “We want to create a place where survivors will feel comfortable accessing care because they know their providers will have a better understanding of some of the challenges they may be facing.”
Contact reporter Cassie Dickman at (209) 546-8299 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @byCassieDickman.