President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor & Combat Trafficking in Persons
The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor & Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) met on October 11 to report on progress made in various priority areas including victim services, rule of law, procurement and supply chains, and public awareness and outreach. Secretary Azar provided the following remarks on the efforts and plans of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
"SECRETARY AZAR: Secretary Pompeo, thank you very much, and it’s an honor to be here today for this meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force. I’d like to reinforce the importance that HHS places on combating the terrible scourge of human trafficking and share a few of the areas where we’re improving efforts to identify and combat it.
HHS’s anti-trafficking mission has three key elements: raising awareness to help identify victims; getting victims connected to restorative services; and equipping community organizations to help victims become survivors.
On identifying victims, HHS is proud to fund the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which is scaling up the use of text messages and online chat services to provide additional, discreet ways for victims and ordinary Americans to get connected to support. HHS is also expanding online training for healthcare and human services practitioners in schools and in tribal communities, two areas where we’ve heard there is a particular need to train practitioners to identify and respond to victims among their patients and clients.
When it comes to meeting victims’ needs, HHS is working to become more innovative and responsive in the work that we do. I’d like to thank the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking for including HHS in its reviews of victim services and grant-making efforts in the Council’s 2017 report. We’ll continue to identify opportunities to implement these recommendations.
Last month, we hosted the first public meeting of the National Advisory Committee on the Sex Trafficking of Children and Youth in the United States, which started analyzing the latest research and provide – and promising practices. The meeting included one of today’s award recipients, Detective Woolf. After meeting again in December, the committee will provide recommendations early next year on how states can further strengthen local anti-trafficking efforts. HHS was also able to deploy our expertise in helping the city of Houston respond to human trafficking risks after Hurricane Harvey last year, so we’re pleased to see Minal Patel Davis’ work recognized today.
Finally, HHS is always looking at how we can assist survivors. We’re incorporating survivors’ needs into our Aim for Independence initiative, part of our agency reform plan, by holding listening sessions on barriers to self-sufficiency faced by trafficking victims. We’ll also provide information and tools to members of the business community who are interested in providing jobs, training, and other support to promote the long-term wellbeing of victims and survivors and their families.
The President has called for the federal government to bring all relevant powers to bear against human trafficking and these are just a few examples of how we’re responding to that call. Together, working across the federal government as we’re doing today, we can continue advancing toward the day when we can put an end to this terrible scourge. Thank you."