Highlight on Vulnerable Women: Preventing Important Public Health Challenges

On April 5th, as part of National Public Health Week, ACF Region 6 partnered with OASH, HRSA, SAMSHA, and ORD, to present Vulnerable Women: Preventing Important Public Health Challenges. This community event, attended by nearly 100 participants, featured speakers and a panel of experts to inform concerned citizens, social service providers, local, state, and federal government organizations, stakeholders and partners about how HHS addressed violence against women, with a focus on prevention. We highlighted vulnerable women, with a focus on immigrant women, and the increased risk of opioid use and other substances, human trafficking, intimate partner violence and sexual violence, as well as severe mental health trauma.

Presenters and panelists from the NPHW event pose together for a group photo
From left to right, top row: Rev. Freedom McAdoo, Dr. David Lane, Fred Schuster, CAPT Mehran Massoudi, and Noel Mendoza
From left to right, bottom row: Sandy Stroud, LaKesha Pope Jackson, Nicole Dana, CDR Karen Hearod, and CAPT Holly Williams

Highlights from featured speaker, CAPT Holly Williams, with Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, included a better understanding about how to define sexual violence and intimate partner violence. She explained how, within the immigrant women community, violence can occur along the entire migratory route, during resettlement, and can be due to acculturation. The community learned about the challenges these women face in seeking assistance, the current statistics of this abuse, and the adverse childhood experiences this abuse can cause. We learned how these adverse childhood experiences influence health and well-being throughout the lifespan. CAPT Williams also discussed the opioid epidemic among this population and the comprehensive approaches needed to address this devastating epidemic. Within these approaches, she identified the missing partnerships and strategies to address a successful approach and helped the audience to better understand the role they can play in turning the tide.

Rev. Freedom McAdoo, Faith Health Community Chaplain, with Pastoral Care, DFW Faith Health Collaborative, Parkland Heath and Hospital Systems highlighted the work that Parkland Hospital, though the Pastoral Care program office, has been able to achieve by partnering with the faith community. These partnerships are essential because faith communities are sacred spaces, safe places, and trusted entities within the community. Faith communities have a level of cultural intelligence that hospitals do not, as hospitals focus on health care as a prescriptive model of care, not a preventative model of care. The Faith Health Collaborative model is focused on prevention and increased access to care through community access and resources.

In addition to the featured speakers, the community heard from HHS Regional Director, Fred Schuster, and ACF Region 6 Regional Administrator, LaKesha Pope Jackson, about HHS’ and ACF’s initiatives and priorities and how they are working together with internal and external partners to make a collaborative effort to address the needs of this and other vulnerable populations.

Noel Mendoza, Human Trafficking Outreach Program Director, of Mosaic Family Services speaks to audience from a podium
Noel Mendoza, Human Trafficking Outreach Program Director, Mosaic Family Services

The audience also heard from a panel of various experts on human trafficking, substance abuse, and community partnerships. Highlights from Noel Mendoza, Human Trafficking Outreach Program Director, of Mosaic Family Services, discussed Mosaic’s services to support, educate, and empower the multicultural individuals and families of North Texas. He provided a clear picture of human trafficking, a form of modern day slavery, as the recruitment, harboring, transporting, or procurement of a person for labor or services for the purpose of involuntary servitude, slavery, or forced commercial sex acts. He explained that human trafficking includes all aspects of forcing an individual to perform labor or other services, where traffickers may use debt bondage, psychological manipulation, threats, and physical violence to control their victims. This labor can include sexual services, domestic labor, agriculture or field labor, and factory work. Mosaic Family Services serves all survivors of labor and sex trafficking regardless of immigration status, including minors, adults, foreign nationals and domestic survivors. He shared a victim’s empowering story of recovery and how she overcame the abuse she suffered to live a life benefiting other survivors and her community. Nicole Dana, Assistant US Attorney, added Noel’s presentation by sharing current human trafficking statistics, in Texas. U.S. Department of State estimates that 14,500 to 17,500 persons are brought into the United States each year for labor or sexual exploitation. Due to its economic stability, cultural diversity, major interstates and airports, large number of sexually oriented businesses, and international border, Texas has become a hub for human trafficking. Texas is not only home to major human trafficking corridors, but many individual trafficking victims are brought to the state and forced to work against their will. She shared crucial information with the audience about how to spot possible human trafficking, how to make a report, and what information to include in that report.

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