(FOX 2) - Emergency room workers are usually the first to come into contact with victims seeking medical help. A metro Detroit nurse has developed a protocol to help doctors and nurses identify those who may be in danger.
Michigan has the sixth highest number of reported human trafficking cases that peak when events like the North American International Auto Show comes to town.
"It is an event that draws so many people, it is increased in this area especially because we are a border city and have a high population of trafficking already," said Henry Ford Hospital emergency room nurse Danielle Jordan Bastein.
She says more 90 percent of trafficked victims have some type of contact with health care workers, but fewer than one percent has been identified in a health care setting. Until now.
While attending Wayne State University, Danielle developed a protocol of screening and assessment tools that would flag potential victims when they first enter the ER.
"It is a multiple step process and it involves mostly nurses," she said. "What happens is, as soon as you make contact to our area you go through triage. Based on the education the nurses have, and also the physicians, and they are triaging this patient and they say, you know what, something doesn't seem right, I am going to flag them."
When that happens, the primary nurse is alerted and will conduct another assessment with specific questions.
"A lot of the things we look for is an inconsistent story," she said. "If there is abuse, torture or neglect signs with that person; if they aren't holding their own ID or money. If the person with them is refusing to leave while they answer or [is] answering questions for them."
If the person is identified as a victim of human trafficking and agrees to receive help, authorities are alerted and they are given safe housing, necessities and transportation.
Over the last year, Danielle's program has saved 17 victims.
"It took me aback it actually worked and we kept it going," she said.
Danielle hopes other hospitals will implement her program, which includes formal training and a policy for all emergency rooms. She says awareness is key to helping victims break free from the world of human trafficking.
"It feels pretty amazing that at least I had a small part in getting this person help," she said.
If these victims have been identified but are not ready for help yet, you give them a small personal item that has the number hidden on it. The person can call anytime.
You don't have to be in healthcare to help. If you know of human trafficking or you are a victim call The National Human Trafficking Hotline (888) 373-7888.
You can also text at 233733, text "help" or "info" hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week. The website: humantraffickinghotline.org.