We've invited Dr. Mollie Gordon, Associate Professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, to share her insights on clinical care approaches for people who have been victims of human trafficking and how telehealth services can improve both training and access to such services.
As a clinician and trainer in multiple programs intervening in concerns related to human trafficking, Dr. Gordon is a strong proponent of training other healthcare providers in screening and intervention methods. She notes that it's essential to be able to identify people who are experiencing human trafficking. She said that, startlingly, 88 percent of human trafficking victims receive healthcare services, but they don't necessarily disclose their situation to healthcare providers. Hospitals and urgent care clinics can first learn about human trafficking, including what it is and what it looks like in a healthcare setting. Providers can also use specific screening tools for human trafficking within healthcare settings. Some states, such as Texas, require healthcare providers to complete training on competency in recognizing and treating those subjected to human trafficking. Response plans for special populations can be considered, just as they are for situations like elder abuse or child abuse.
Although human trafficking is a challenging topic, Dr. Gordon notes that with proper identification, patients who experience human trafficking can be evaluated for their biopsychosocial needs, including housing and social needs as well as any needs for services related to rehab, legal recourse, or law enforcement.
Dr. Gordon shares that virtual learning options have been beneficial for training many healthcare providers, including nurses, social workers, and physicians. As education and awareness is critical, Dr. Gordon notes that it is hard for busy providers to attend specialized training, no matter how important the topic is. Virtual learning options are helpful so that providers can engage in training efforts after hours without affecting their clinic times.
Telehealth has also been an efficient way to provide outreach for screening, identification, and service outreach, and her initiative encourages hospitals to use telehealth for case management and direct team contact. With telehealth, people can more quickly connect with their team of providers, which is particularly important for those in difficult situations who may need support services quickly.
Dr. Gordon believes that any hospital should have an anti-trafficking program as this problem is widespread, including urgent care centers, hospital systems, clinics, and private practice. She notes, "Anywhere you are seeing patients, you are seeing a patient who could be a potential victim of abuse or neglect, including human trafficking."
About Dr. Mollie Gordon, M.D.:
Dr. Mollie Gordon is an Associate Professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. She is an award-winning leader in clinical care for human trafficking. She is involved with several programs focused on assessment and intervention for human trafficking, including as a co-chair of The American Medical Women's Association- Physicians against the Trafficking of Humans (HEAL). Recently she founded the BCM division of global mental health to treat survivors of torture, trafficking, and mass violence atrocities. Dr. Gordon can be contacted by email or through her website.
Dr. Gordon is the instructor for TCI's course, "Telehealth and Human Trafficking".