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Peters seeks pilot program on human trafficking

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters visited Wayne State University's medical school Monday to push for legislation helping health care professionals better identify patients who are victims of human trafficking.

Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, has introduced a bill creating a pilot program for a medical school to develop best practices for identifying and preventing the spread of human trafficking — what the U.S. Department of Homeland Security calls a "modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain," often resulting in sexual coercion.

"The people who are usually on the first lines, (who) usually have contact with the victims of trafficking, are the medical professionals," Peters said in an interview Monday morning. "Perhaps one of the most significant challenges in dealing with the problem is identifying who the victims are."

Peters talked more about the proposal later Monday at Margherio Family Conference Center at Wayne State's School of Medicine in Detroit. He was joined at the event by Wayne State medical school Dean Dr. Jack Sobel and Angela Aufdemberge, president and CEO of Vista Maria, an organization that helps youth vulnerable to sex trafficking.

"Wayne State is already doing a lot of great work in that area," Peters said Monday on the "Michigan's Big Show" radio program.

The university embraced Peters' proposal.

"Clearly there is an important role for the medical profession to play, and his legislation will help train those professionals to identify and treat victims of human trafficking," said Patrick Lindsey, vice president of government and community affairs at Wayne State University.

Gov. Rick Snyder last year signed into law 21 anti-human-trafficking bills that range from harsher penalties for perpetrators of the modern-day version of slavery to state protection for juveniles rescued from the sex trade.

Peters' Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Centers Act has the support of Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

clivengood@detroitnews.com