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Program to Prevent Youth Trafficking in Kanasas, USA

June 22, 2009

Wichita, Kansas law enforcement and Via Christi Health Care workers unite through Healthcare Haven, a program designed to help victimized youth.

Within 48 hours of running away from home, statistics show one in three youth are lured into prostitution. Statistics also show the average age of entry into prostitution is 12. The statistics are startling, yet they apply to Wichita.

"In the Midwest, this is a big problem," said Kathy Gill-Hopple, Director of Healthcare Haven. "This is the third most profitable crime behind drug trafficking and arms trafficking."

The extent of the problem in Wichita was kept under the radar until about three years ago. Now, law enforcement and health care workers are working together to shed light on the problem and bring help to those effected.

"We realized nobody is providing the health care service to these kids," said Gill-Hopple. "So there was a real gap in what was available, and we thought helping these youth really fit with Via Christie's mission."

Project Healthcare Haven reaches out to young people victimized by trafficking and prostitution by offering free services. Services include: free pap smears, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and provide resources for other health problems, including teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, depression, and thoughts of suicide.

"It's very difficult to access these people. It's a population that is very non-trusting," said Gill-Hopple. "They have been groomed into thinking no one will help them," she said.

In the past year Healthcare Haven has treated 6 victimized youth from the streets. Gill-Hopple said it is a small number, but the effect they have had is remarkable. She looks forward to working with law enforcement and helping more youth as the years continue.
 

Adapted from: Abby Barnett, "Program to Prevent Youth Trafficking," KAKE.com, 22 June 2009.
 

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