WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- A bill authored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-88) that requires health-care professionals be trained to recognize human trafficking victims was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday, Nov. 4.
The legislation requires hospitals, public health centers, diagnostic centers, treatment centers and outpatient departments to establish and implement written policies and procedures for the identification, assessment and treatment or referral of persons suspected as human trafficking victims.
According to Dr. Douglas Chin, director of outreach for Physicians Against the Trafficking of Humans (PATH), 87 percent of trafficking victims have had contact with a health-care provider while being trafficked.
Nevertheless, fewer than 10 percent of doctors recognize trafficking victims and fewer than three percent of emergency room doctors have received training in recognition and action.
“With appropriate training, the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who are the most likely to come in contact with a potential victim will be able to recognize the signs that indicate the person seeking treatment may be a human trafficking victim,” said Paulin. “They will also be able to refer the victim so that she can get specialized services and escape her life of violence and enslavement.
“Human trafficking is a $32 billion industry and nearly 300,000 children, some as young as ages 11 and 12, are at risk of becoming sexually exploited,." she added. "This is happening right here, in our state, in our backyards. We need to continue to do all that we can to help bring an end to this deplorable practice of selling people, particularly children, for sex.”
Using data collected by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline, the Polaris Project, a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that works to combat and prevent modern-day slavery and human trafficking, determined that between 2001 and 2012 New York, California, Texas and Florida received the most potential reports of human trafficking.
New York City was identified as a hub for the crime.
State Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Republican from Staten Island, sponsored Paulin's legislation in the Senate.
Paulin defeated Conservative Party challenger Anthony J. Decintio Jr. to win reelection to the state's 88th Assembly District on Tuesday.