Northwell Health and five other major health systems around the country will study ways to identify victims of human trafficking. The program, which trains hospital personnel to spot the signs that a person who seeks medical treatment has been trafficked was initiated three years ago at Huntington Hospital.
Baptist Health in Florida; Advocate Aurora Health in Illinois; Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey; RWJ Barnabas Health in New Jersey, Harris Health in Texas and Northwell will participate in the pilot study to help the World Health Organization to develop protocols and guidelines to assist victims.
Research indicates that up to 88 percent of human trafficking victims and survivors seek help from health providers, Northwell said. Visits to providers trained to spot victims could assist victims to seek help and escape their situation.
Dr. Santhosh Paulus, director of Huntington Hospital’s family medicine residency
program, initiated Northwell’s human trafficking task force in March 2017. Since that time, 13
patients who came through Northwell facilities had been flagged as potential human trafficking
victims; six agreed to accept resources and assistance. There are approximately 1,000 New
Yorkers each year who become victims of human trafficking, Paulus said. But, he said, cases of human trafficking in the United States are underreported because many health
care workers remain unaware of the signs.
To date, nearly 4,000 Northwell employees, both medical and non-clinical, have received
training in the area of human trafficking via the health system’s electronic iLearn platform;
another 1,100 have participated in a 90-minute, in-person educational session.
Global Strategic Operatives for the Eradication of Human Trafficking (GSO) recently
honored Northwell for emphasizing the need to identify and help human trafficking victims.
“Let’s not just keep talking about this issue; it’s time to roll up our sleeves and think of
practical solutions,” said Deb O’Hara-Rusckowski, RN, GSO founder and a delegate for the
Order of Malta to the United Nations. She noted that The Permanent Observer Mission of the
Holy See to the United Nations has a goal of ending human trafficking by 2030 and that we are
“nowhere near that.”
During a press conference held at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Jasmine Grace
Marino, a trafficking survivor, spoke of her years spent in virtual servitude to a man
who used her for profit. Now a happily married mother of five children and author, Marino acknowledged that during the time of her ordeal, she saw a doctor about every three
months at her local hospital.
“Each time, a ‘little seed of hope’ was planted until I was finally able to take the leap to
start a new life,” she said. “All it took was one person showing a genuine interest and
listening to me.”
For more information about Northwell’s human trafficking task force, go to