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MCW’s Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment awards $158,000 to combat sex trafficking among youth

April 21, 2014

The Medical College of Wisconsin’s (MCW) Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin endowment awarded $158,000 over two years to the Proactive Outreach for the Health of Sexually Exploited Youth (POHSEY) project through the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program (HWPP).

Wraparound Milwaukee, a unique system of care for children with serious emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs and their families, is the lead community partner on the project. The goal of the POHSEY project is to improve the identification and treatment of youth who are at-risk for or are victims of sex trafficking.

The law defines involving a child in a commercial sex act or sexually explicit performance as human trafficking. Last year, the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission released a report estimating that, over a two-year period, 77 children were identified as victims of sex trafficking in Milwaukee. The landmark report put a number on the problem for the first time. However, because the report only included youth who had police contact, the partners on this project believe that many more youth are actually affected in Milwaukee.

Academic partner Wendi Ehrman, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at MCW and a specialist in adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, in collaboration with the Milwaukee Adolescent Health Program, Wraparound Milwaukee, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office and Rethink Resources, will investigate common risk factors for sex trafficking that can be used to identify youth in need of intervention and services, such as physical and mental health care.

Studies indicate that the information collected by health care providers and the juvenile justice system contains many known factors for evaluating the risk of commercial sexual exploitation. The goal of this project is to use data from Milwaukee’s juvenile justice system and other system agencies to create a new method for identifying those youth who have experienced sex trafficking or who are at risk for being victimized.

HWPP has awarded a total of $2.3 million as part of its ninth funding cycle. POHSEY is one of nine project awards by HWPP in 2013 to partnerships between academics and community health and non-profit organizations for urban, rural and statewide health improvement projects in Wisconsin. HWPP is a component of the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin (AHW) endowment, a fund stewarded by MCW with the mission of serving as a catalyst for positive change in the health of Wisconsin communities.

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