Even Carroll County residents who are concerned about human trafficking, an issue which Gov. Larry Hogan has made combating a priority, probably don’t think it is a major problem in this area. Carroll Hospital does, however, see suspected victims of trafficking. So the hospital is taking some steps to try to ensure it doesn’t become a bigger issue locally.
Besides adding a screening for human trafficking victims to other assessments conducted in the emergency department, Carroll Hospital is hosting a program on human trafficking tonight. That program will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Shauck Auditorium in the hospital’s East Pavilion, and will feature Steven Hess, a victim-witness manager with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.
“We’ve had only a few instances where we’ve had patients who we knew were victims of trafficking, but we feel that as a whole we are missing many opportunities to identify these folks,” Tracy Yingling, a forensic nurse and coordinator of the hospital’s Forensic Nurse Examiner program, told us. The hospital defines trafficking as “recruiting or obtaining a person by means of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of labor, or services or sexual exploitation.” Yingling said that a few years ago the hospital started doing an assessment program to identify those at greatest risk of being injured or killed in an intimate partner relationship. The new hospital protocols follow a similar screening to determine if a person might be a victim of trafficking.
“We have a resource for the emergency department that basically provides them with a lot of red flags to look for to help identify a human trafficking victim and if they see any of those red flags, they are to ask two screening questions,” she told us. “If a positive comes from that, they call the forensic nurse and we respond directly to the hospital to ask additional screening lessons and (determine) what the victim wants.”
If the person does not want help, everything stays confidential and the hospital provides information they can use later. If the person wants assistance, they can decide whether to involve law enforcement. The hospital will only refer their case to police if asked, assuming they are not a minor or a vulnerable adult. If the person wants help extricating themselves from a situation, Yingling said, the hospital will refer them to Family and Children’s Services of Central Maryland for case management services.
“Our partnership would allow us to have contact through our 24-hour hotline, with the hospital,” Kelley Rainey, director of case management services for Family and Children’s Services, told us. “If there was a potential person who has been a victim of trafficking, who wanted to leave their situation but had nowhere to go, what we would do is house them temporarily and then come up with a plan for more stabilized housing.”
These are seemingly the types of steps the Maryland governor wanted when he began focusing on human trafficking during his run for a second term. Last August, Hogan signed an executive order to create an anti-human trafficking director position, according to a Baltimore Sun article. He also announced $10 million in funding, half of which was to go toward providing and connecting victims with services, such as temporary shelters. The same article noted data that showed the extent of the problem in the state — an average of 66 youths are trafficked each year in Maryland, according to the Maryland Safe Harbor Workgroup created by the General Assembly to study the issue.
It’s a serious issue, but one we hope remains relatively rare in Carroll. Anyone looking for more information should consider attending tonight’s program at Carroll Hospital. And for anyone who needs help because of a trafficking situation or intimate partner violence, Family and Children’s Services maintains a local hotline at 443-865-8031. There is also a national human trafficking hotline at 888-373-7888.