Emergency Nurses Association-Backed Human Trafficking Bill Clears Congress

December 21, 2018 Advocacy ENA Human Trafficking

SOAR Act provides health care workers with training on how to identify, treat trafficking victims

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (Dec. 21, 2018) – The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation strongly supported by the Emergency Nurses Association which provides health care workers with critical training for identifying and treating victims of human trafficking.

The Stop, Observe, Ask, and Respond to Health and Wellness Act, which now is ready to be signed into law by the president, aims to improve care for those ensnared in the global human trafficking epidemic by establishing a pilot program that better equips emergency nurses and other health care workers with tools that not only help identify victims, but improve the approach to treatment, facilitates communication between victims and law enforcement, and creates opportunities to better connect victims with social services.

These steps are designed to improve upon statistics which show 95 percent of emergency department personnel have not received human trafficking training, while only one percent of hospitals across the United States have strategies for treating human trafficking victims. Additional research reveals that as many as 88 percent of all trafficking victims receive medical treatment while being trafficked. Approximately 63 percent of those individuals received that care in an emergency department.

“Emergency nurses are in a unique position to help victims of human trafficking,” said ENA President Jeff Solheim, MSN, RN, CEN, CFRN, FAEN, FAAN. “We recognize that for many human trafficking victims, we may be the one of the few people who can potentially rescue them from a horrific situation. This training provides ED nurses, and all health care professionals, tools that can truly make an impact on the lives of those who need it most.”

The International Labour Organization estimates there are 21 million human trafficking victims around the world, with nearly one-quarter of them children. The U.S. Department of Justice has reported that as many as 15,000 foreign nationals are trafficking into the United States each year.

The SOAR Act was a priority piece of legislation discussed by ENA members on Capitol Hill in May as part of the association’s annual Day on the Hill event in Washington, D.C.

ENA offered its thanks to Reps. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Adam Kinzinger R-Ill., as well as Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Susan Collins, R- Maine., for their leadership in introducing the bill and their efforts to move it through Congress.

The Emergency Nurses Association is the premier professional nursing association dedicated to defining the future of emergency nursing through advocacy, education, research, innovation, and leadership. Founded in 1970, ENA has proven to be an indispensable resource to the global emergency nursing community. With 50,000 members worldwide, ENA advocates for patient safety, develops industry-leading practice standards and guidelines and guides emergency health care public policy. ENA members have expertise in triage, patient care, disaster preparedness, and all aspects of emergency care. Additional information is available at www.ena.org.