BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- St. Charles Health System is taking a proactive approach to combating human trafficking. Through a partnership with local nonprofit Guardian Group, the health system has started providing human trafficking recognition and response training to its caregivers.
Since August, St. Charles has hosted nine training sessions at its four hospital campuses and has seven more scheduled in the coming months.
“At St. Charles, our vision is ‘creating America’s healthiest community, together,’” said Joe Sluka, president and CEO of St. Charles Health System. “Our caregivers do much more than just provide health care services. Being trained to understand and identify potential human trafficking victims will help us better serve our patients. We appreciate the Guardian Group’s partnership in this effort.”
The training covers what human trafficking looks like nationally, as well as in Central Oregon; how to recognize crime-specific indicators; how to speak with patients who may be in a potential trafficking situation and best practices for responding.
Guardian Group’s mission is to prevent and disrupt the sex trafficking of women and children while enabling partners to identify victims and predators in the United States.
“St. Charles has become a key partner in the fight against sex trafficking here locally. We have already seen the impact providing these trainings for them has made on this community. Their staff is vital in recognizing potential victims, and they are doing an excellent job,” said Guardian Group founder and CEO Jeff Keith.
Will Bean, manager of the St. Charles Madras Emergency Department, has made the training mandatory for nurses there.
“This training was eye-opening and sobering,” he said. “We learned of the terrible things a group of humans can do to another person and the problem is way bigger than I thought. The benefit of the instructions we received was learning the signs and indications of the victims and the criminals who own them. It has changed the way I look at situations.”
Together, these two organizations are striving to make Central Oregon a safer community.