Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra publicly announced the formation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Task Force to Prevent Human Trafficking (the Task Force). The Task Force will facilitate implementation of the priority actions HHS has committed to in President Biden’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, as well as strengthen HHS’ human trafficking prevention and intervention efforts with a focus on partnerships, equity, and open data.
Secretary Becerra first announced the Task Force at a January 25th meeting of President Biden’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons – a cabinet-level entity of 20 federal agencies responsible for coordinating U.S. government-wide efforts to combat human trafficking. The Administration for Children and Families and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health will lead the Task Force at HHS, which will be made up of experts from across the Department.
“There is no place for human trafficking in our world. Our Task Force will work to ensure health and human services providers are adequately equipped to support survivors,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “On top of determining new ways to support survivors, our Task Force will work to elevate national awareness about human trafficking to encourage more people to come forward and help stop it. Together, government, community, and businesses can prevent human trafficking in neighborhoods across the country.”
Human trafficking disproportionally affects many of the communities HHS serves. These communities include—but are not limited to—youth and adults experiencing homelessness and domestic violence, persons in eldercare systems, unaccompanied children and refugees, Indigenous communities, individuals with a prior history of substance abuse and other populations that have been systemically marginalized. Part of the work of the Task Force will be to figure out how to better reach affected communities where they are.
“Gender, racial, and other forms of inequity are some of the major underlying factors that contribute to risks for human trafficking,” added Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine. “Our unified public health response to human trafficking will strengthen our national understanding of the diverse manifestations of human trafficking and work towards the short- and long-term wellbeing of historically underserved communities.”
Together, with federal, state, local, and public-private partners, the Task Force will work to scale innovative models to prevent human trafficking – particularly in the high-need areas of housing, mental health and substance use, and economic mobility. In addition, the Task Force will integrate an equity lens into new public awareness strategies to better reach populations at disproportionate risk for human trafficking. Finally, the Task Force will partner with the research and business communities to analyze data on human trafficking and prevent human trafficking in healthcare supply chains.
“Each instance of human trafficking we learn about through the HHS National Human Trafficking Hotline or through local grant-receiving organizations represents an opportunity for us to make a pivotal connection,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families JooYeun Chang. “We need to look at multi-generational solutions to disrupt the cycles of trauma and strengthen resiliency at individual, family, and community levels.”
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