Marian Regional Medical Center at The Family Medicine Center in Santa Maria unveiled a new Medical Safe Haven program (MSH) to help survivors of human trafficking, including labor and sex trafficking.
People can contact the clinic at (805) 739-3561 and leave their information. The hospital will forward the information to a Medical Safe Haven Advocate who will help coordinate.
Santa Maria is an area highly impacted by human trafficking, according to hospital officials, and the program will train medical residents to recognize and treat survivors of trafficking.
“You’ll find a lot of times these experiences really change you, not just as a physician, but as a person because you can't, can't begin to understand why something like this would happen to people," said Dr. Christine Ragay-Cathers, the program and medical director at Marian Regional Medical Center.
The program will offer primary and prenatal care, mental support, STI testing and other services. The staff also works with an identified lab and pharmacy to ensure they are able get medications and labs done in a timely manner, according to the hospital.
Hospital staff are mandated reporters for adult victims of domestic violence, but not for sexual assault; however, they are required to report any assault on children.
“They're [hospital staff] aware that it's kind of a sensitive Safe Haven patient and that they need to be careful about who they divulge certain information to," Dr. Ragay-Cathers said.
Officials say they want everyone in need of this type of care to have access to it and say they do not share medical records without the patient’s consent.
“A lot of times they haven't really, you know, they've been going to the E.R., urgent care for a lot of their medical needs, so a lot of them haven't even had preventive care and a sense of, you know, sometimes they haven't had like cervical cancer screening or pap smears, they haven't had mammograms, colon cancer screening, they had labs to check to see if they're diabetic or if they have cholesterol problems," added Dr. Ragay-Cathers.
So far, the program has treated four survivors of trafficking, all of them women. “In regards to age, [survivors] can range anywhere from children all the way up to the elderly, so it [trafficking] encompasses a wide variety of ages, all walks of life, male or female. It does not discriminate,” Dr. Ragay-Cathers said.
She adds there are currently 19 resident physicians in the program and that much of the program’s focus will be on trauma informed care where the health provider allows the patient to take the lead.
“Trauma informed care is really, you know, recognizing or acknowledging that certain individuals with trauma that their experiences has a huge effect on their mental health, emotional health, physical health and a lot of times, you know, in your medical training, you're not really taught that,” she explained.
Allowing a survivor to build trust with a clinician is key. Dr. Ragay-Cathers went on to say, “If you're not ready for a pelvic exam, I understand. I can wait. If you're, if you feel like you need, you want to focus more on your depression or anxiety, I'm okay.”