Decision Support for Confirmed or Suspected Human Trafficking in healthcare settings

The best approach is to plan ahead. Consider how you would respond to specific situations where trafficking is suspected, involving various circumstances and demographics.

This is why it is so critical to have protocols or guidelines in place so you know what to do and who to call when the time comes.

Note: We will learn more details about effective guidelines and how to develop them in future courses of this Healthcare Response to Human Trafficking Series.

On this page, you’ll learn about important considerations for reporting as a healthcare professional.

First let's look at an important safety note:

Be alert; be safe

Do not attempt to confront a suspected trafficker directly about your suspicions. This may jeopardize the safety of the potential victim as well as yourself, and your staff. Follow your facility’s protocol and any relevant mandatory reporting laws.

When it comes to reporting suspected or confirmed human trafficking of a patient, consider these key guidelines:

Top RecommendationsDecision Support for Confirmed or Suspected Human Trafficking

Important notes:

  • Mandated reporting laws can differ by state and also by the demographic of the trafficked person, so be sure to find out if/how the law applies to you and your patients.
  • If you are governed by mandated reporting laws, still consider how you can inform and involve your patient about what and how you are reporting.
  • Find out if you have one or more local task forces* that can support in the event of suspected or confirmed human trafficking

    *You can begin your search for a local taskforce or anti-trafficking group by exploring these resources:

  • Be prepared to contact the recommended local person or agency either with the patient's consent, or carefully keeping any protected health information (PHI) private when you report.
  • Child Advocacy Centers are often well-equipped to support needs related to human trafficking involving minors.

About contacting the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH) as a healthcare professional:

  • The NHTH can help connect victims with service providers in the area and provides training, technical assistance, and other resources. The NHTH is a national, toll-free hotline available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. The NHTH is not a law enforcement or immigration authority and is operated by a nongovernmental organization funded by the United States Federal government. Learn more at (National Human Trafficking Hotline)
  • When contacting NHTH as a healthcare professional, remember:

    • Mandated reporting laws still apply, and reporting a tip to the NHTH does not fulfill mandated reporting laws.
    • Keeping protected health information private is critical. Consider how you can report a tip that can be helpful in efforts to address human trafficking, without revealing specific patient details if the patient has not given consent to share those details.

  • In the United States, save these as two new contacts for NHTH in your phone so you can be prepared for different situations:

    • Report Human Trafficking by PHONE: 888-373-7888
    • Report Human Trafficking by TEXT: 233-733

  • Having NHTH contact numbers saved can also help you to report suspected human trafficking outside of the scope of your work as a healthcare professional.

Always keep your patient as the priority. Remember to protect patient rights and privacy.

When deciding when and how to report human trafficking, consider how to use trauma-informed care with your patient in this process.

Be transparent. Consult with your patient about your plans and recommendations. They have valuable information about themselves and their situation that you may lack. They can also share their perspectives on who they trust—or don't trust—for reporting and/or referrals, and why.

When it comes to reporting, always remember that foreign national trafficked persons have very real concerns about possible deportation and/or arrest.  For confirmed cases of human trafficking, work to contact an agency serving immigrants as soon as possible (with the patient’s consent), so they can arrange for a pro bono attorney to attend to legal and immigration issues. There are federal protections and programs for foreign national victims of trafficking and/or violent crimes in the United States.

Continue to learn more about how healthcare professionals can prepare and respond

Register for the Healthcare Response to Human Trafficking Series

Healthcare Response to Human Trafficking Series