BRYAN, Texas — According to Texas Attorney General's website, 25 million people are subject to human trafficking. More than 200,000 people are victims of labor trafficking in Texas alone at any given time. CHI St. Joseph Hospital staff are employing different projects to protect those victims that come to their hospitals.
Human trafficking may be happening right under your nose and you might not even know. CHI St. Joseph has been working on projects to learn and educate staff on techniques and tools they can use to spot and help victims.
“A lot of times, screening for the victim and knowing exactly what to look for is the most difficult piece of it, just because the people who are involved in human trafficking rings are highly skilled at what they do and they’re very good at trying to hide it,” said director of nursing and support Brandy Lapaglia.
CHI St. Joseph staff pay special attention to those in the labor and delivery unit and the emergency department.
“Human trafficking is not just sex trafficking that tends to get a lot of attention, but there’s also labor trafficking, so child labor or it could be illegal immigrants that are at risk of becoming a part of that group,” said Lapaglia.
Staff look for certain red flags that in the patients that come to the hospital.
“The most difficult aspect is actually deciphering who is a victim and who isn’t," said system medical director for emergency Paul Goen. "Because a lot of times the people who are with them are good at covering what’s going on and things we look for are someone who’s overbearing, does the talking for them, is overly concerned about their condition. So that’s when our flags go up.”
The location of the Brazos Valley may make the area more susceptible to human trafficking cases.
“Being between large cities, kind of that triangle in Texas, it really makes our area high risk for human trafficking," said Lapaglia. "Because of the traffic and the proximity to the larger cities, also because we’re a border state there’s just a lot of opportunity for that here.”
The nurses at CHI St Joseph are trained in recognizing these signs and how to approach the patient when a situation arises, and this extends not just to hospitals here in Texas.
“I think this is a national problem. I think the nurses and phsyicians both get a lot of education from our nation," said Goen. "ln colleges, I know it’s a big push on the American College of Emergencies and Physicians and we hear about it at conferences."
If you know someone who may be a victim of human trafficking, the hospital advises you call law enforcement or the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Below are resources listed where you can gather more information regarding human trafficking and the local organizations that are here to help.