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Dignity Health Receives Grants from U.S. Department of Justice to Expand Human Trafficking Response Programs

SAN FRANCISCO (November 29, 2018) – Dignity Health, one the nation’s largest health systems, has received two federal grants totaling more than $1.5 million from the United States Department of Justice that will help the health system expand human trafficking response programs and services.

The first program, the Medical Safe Haven for Mental Health Services Project, is designed to enhance the quality and quantity of specialized services available to all victims of human trafficking. The second program, the Human Trafficking Victim Response Hospital Pilot, will expand trauma-informed care, thereby supporting survivors and reducing further victimization.

 “Studies have shown that victims of human trafficking are presenting in health care settings without being appropriately identified or assisted. And we know that human trafficking is occurring in every one of the communities we serve,” says Dignity Health’s Human Trafficking Response Program director and advocate, Holly Austin Gibbs. “That is why we built a survivor-led program to empower trafficked persons toward a path of healing.” 

Dignity Health is leading the health care industry on programs addressing human trafficking. The Human Trafficking Response Program and Medical Safe Haven have become models that health care systems are seeking to implement nationwide.

Dignity Health Foundation sponsored the human trafficking response initiative in 2014 after a study in the Annals of Health Law indicated that more than 88 percent of trafficked persons have contact with health care professionals while being trafficked. This led Dignity Health to develop a program for its care centers along with step-by-step resources that help hospitals across the nation to identify and respond to vulnerable patients. Dignity Health has trained staff in all of its emergency and maternity departments. 

 “This funding from the Department of Justice is a vote of confidence in Dignity Health’s work to address human trafficking,” says Fred Najjar, senior vice president of philanthropy and system chief philanthropy officer at Dignity Health. “By expanding beyond our hospitals, the impact will be multiplied nationwide so that the health care field will become a place where victims can receive the support they need and be empowered for recovery.”

The Medical Safe Haven for Mental Health Services Project will extend the Medical Safe Haven clinic model to two additional Dignity Health residency program sites. The Medical Safe Haven Clinic, started by Ron Chambers, MD, at Dignity Health Mercy Family Health Center in Sacramento, specializes in trauma-informed care for human trafficking survivors. At this clinic, the focus is on providing physical and mental health services using a patient-centered, survivor-informed approach. The clinic has provided care during hundreds of patient visits. The creation of a safe environment to receive medical care that works collaboratively with community agencies, law enforcement, and others has provided an integral tool for many survivors as they enroll in school, join the workforce, establish permanent safe housing, and travel down new paths of positive, healthy lives. Over the next three years, this clinic model will be extended in two of Dignity Health’s residency clinics and shared nationwide for other health care providers to replicate.

The Dignity Health Human Trafficking Response Hospital Pilot will focus on supporting hospital personnel to respond compassionately and effectively to victims of all forms of abuse, in particular human trafficking. Trainers will provide hands-on instruction and model how to interact with patients that are possible victims, empower staff with the skills needed to provide trauma-informed care, and refer them to additional community resources and services. The pilot site in Kern County, Calif., will utilize an intervention tool, PEARR, developed by Gibbs, in partnership with HEAL Trafficking and Pacific Survivor Center. The PEARR tool results will be evaluated by a research university. This will provide an evidence-based human trafficking assessment tool that can then be used throughout Dignity Health and shared with other health care systems.

About Dignity Health 
Dignity Health, one of the nation’s largest health care systems, is a multi-state network of 10,000 physicians, more than 60,000 employees, 41 acute care hospitals, and 400-plus care-centers including neighborhood hospitals, urgent care, surgery and imaging centers, home health, and primary care clinics. Headquartered in San Francisco, Dignity Health is dedicated to providing compassionate, high-quality, and affordable patient-centered care with special attention to the poor and underserved. In FY 2018, Dignity Health provided $2.1 billion in charitable care and services. For more information, please visit our website at You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Chad Burns
[email protected]

Publish date: 

Thursday, November 29, 2018