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Addressing Human Trafficking in Cleveland

Human trafficking is a form of human slavery that includes forced labor, domestic servitude and commercial sex trafficking. It Is a major global problem and a particular challenge locally, as the state of Ohio ranks fourth in the nation for human trafficking cases.

Two CSU nursing students decided to investigate ways to address this issue by creating better methods for identifying trafficking victims and ultimately provide them with the support and assistance needed to free themselves. Amber Gillespie and Allyson Figlar began the effort as a project for their Master’s in Nursing degrees and were ultimately able to implement the program they designed, in partnership with a local health system.

“Over 80 percent of human trafficking victims come to the hospital during their victimization,” notes Figlar. “Health care workers are therefore often the first point of contact for many victims. We saw this as an opportunity to help practitioners better identify those that are being trafficked and get them help.”

Figlar and Gillespie worked with CSU nursing faculty and several health-care mentors to research various human trafficking screening techniques and then developed their own tool that could meet the needs of the local population. They then created a training program to educate nurses, doctors, social workers, case managers and all other ancillary staff on the use of the tool as well as the key red flags and signals that could indicate victimization. They ultimately worked with a local health system to implement the tool into existing charting systems used by emergency departments, inpatient units and medical offices to diagnose and intake patients.

“It is truly amazing to see this idea we had actually become a reality,” Gillespie says.

Both Figlar and Gillespie have completed their master’s programs and are looking forward to furthering their careers with their new degrees. They also hope to continue to develop and expand the initiative to additional medical sites and other health systems in the region.

“It is our distinct hope that this effort will ultimately help reduce the incidence of human trafficking across the region and help victims get the help they need,” note Figlar and Gillespie.