The Ripon Advance: Kinzinger's bill to help ID, support human trafficking victims passes House

A bill heralded by U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) that would help health care providers identify and more effectively support victims of human trafficking received approval from the U.S. House of Representatives by voice vote on Feb. 26.

The bipartisan Stop, Observe, Ask, and Respond to Health and Wellness Act of 2018, H.R. 767, or the SOAR to Health and Wellness Act of 2018, was introduced by Rep. Kinzinger and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) on Jan. 31, 2017. If enacted, H.R. 767 would direct the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a pilot training program to help health care providers and related providers identify individuals who may be human-trafficking victims, among other provisions.

“It can be difficult to imagine, but human trafficking is happening here in the U.S., within our communities, and it affects all of us,” Rep. Kinzinger said after the House voted. “This bill will raise awareness on human trafficking, educate communities on signs to look for, and ultimately help more victims across the country.”

H.R. 767 also would direct that training be based on stakeholder engagement, including with trafficking victims, and include working with law enforcement to report on and communicate with victims, according to the bill’s text.

Rep. Cohen said H.R. 767 also would authorize $4 million in training grants for health professionals for each of fiscal years 2018 through 2022 and “could end horrors for thousands of victims.”

H.R. 767 gained 11 cosponsors, including U.S. Reps. Tony Cardenas (D-CA) and Ann Wagner (R-MO), who signed on as original cosponsors. Both representatives this week spoke to issues that spurred their support for the bill.

“As a Los Angeles City Councilman I saw first-hand the danger and heartbreak of human trafficking taking place in our own communities, right under our noses,” said Rep. Cardenas. “It made me think about how many lives we could save if we were just able to see the warning signs and knew what to do when we suspected somebody was in trouble.”

“Studies show that up to 9 in 10 victims had contact with a health care provider while being trafficked, which is why we must equip these providers with the tools they need on the front lines,” added Rep. Wagner.

The House-approved proposal “will have a significant impact towards putting an end to this heinous crime, and I hope to see the Senate act on it soon,” Kinzinger said. The measure now awaits consideration by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.


The original article can be found on The Ripon Advance website here