Innovative Health Care and Shelter Solutions for Trafficking Survivors Win the First Partnership for Freedom Challenge

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Human Trafficking

Partnership for Freedom logo which shows two hands, a figure of a person and the words modern solutions to modern slavery.

By Rochelle L. Rollins, PhD, MPH, Human Trafficking Health Policy Advisor

The movement to end human trafficking took a step forward today as the Partnership for Freedom announced the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Freedom Clinic and the Safe Shelter Collaborative as the winners of its first innovation challenge, Reimagine: Opportunity.

The challenge sought proposals for new ideas, partnerships and fresh approaches to dramatically improve services and support for human trafficking survivors. 

The Partnership for Freedom is a public-private partnership that was first announced by President Obama during his landmark speech on human trafficking in September 2012. It is led by Humanity United, a foundation dedicated to building peace and advancing human freedom, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

For this first competition, more than 160 entries from more than 260 community organizations, service providers, hospitals, corporations, universities, government agencies and community coalitions were submitted. The MGH Freedom Clinic and the Safe Shelter Collaborative were chosen from among 12 finalists.

The winners will receive a total of $1.77 million from private donors including Humanity United, Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women initiative and Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation to begin piloting their solutions.

The MGH Freedom Clinic, a project of the MGH Human Trafficking Initiative from the Department of Emergency Medicine's Division of Global Health & Human Rights, will receive $600,000 to establish a pioneering model of comprehensive primary and preventative health care services for trafficking survivors.  

Lessons learned will be shared with healthcare providers across the nation to inform new policies and protocols that will improve the ability of our health care system to identify and assist trafficking survivors. 

The Safe Shelter Collaborative will receive $1.17 million to dramatically increase access to appropriate, supportive shelters for survivors of human trafficking.  A collaboration between Polaris Project, New Jersey Department of Children and Families, and Caravan Studios, a division of TechSoup Global, this project uses technology to locate and provide immediate shelter services for survivors and will increase the amount of shelter available by broadening the base of organizations who can support trafficking survivors.

Access to trauma informed health care and targeted housing were social determinates of health described in the Guidance to States and Services on Addressing Human Trafficking of Children and Youth in the United States which was released bv the Administration for Children, Youth and Families.

“The MGH Freedom Clinic and the Safe Shelter Collaboration are bold solutions that will inform the development of improved systems of care for survivors of trafficking,” said Dr. George Askew, Chief Medical Officer for ACF.

The pilots will also advance the work of the five-year Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services to Victims of Human Trafficking, released earlier this year.  The vision of the Federal Plan is “… that every victim of human trafficking is identified and provided access to the services they need to recover and to rebuild their lives…” 

All social justice movements need innovative thought leaders and committed community organizations to achieve meaningful and lasting change. The Reimagine: Opportunity challenge demonstrates the type of community-based leadership taking place across the country to work with survivors of trafficking to achieve wellness and stability.