Lawmakers seek to fund long-term care center for sexually-exploited teens
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii has a high rate of runaways who could be targets of sex traffickers.
One group believes up to 2,500 people in Hawaii are sex trafficking victims and half of them are under 18.
"If a child has been in a local brothel, based upon the victims that we've talked to, they service ten customers a day," said Kris Coffield, of IMUA Alliance.
But Harm Reduction Hawaii thinks far fewer teens in Hawaii are forced into the sex trade and kept captive by a pimp.
"They've run away from home," said advocate Tracy Ryan said. "They may have run away from foster care. And what they've run to is survival sex and living in the streets."
Estimates aside, some lawmakers want the state Department of Human Services to pay a provider to operate a long-term care center for sex trafficked youth.
Those who work with troubled teens are concerned.
"It's very important that if we're going to recommend these people to go to a service that we're confident that that service meets the standards of harm reduction as set up for those services," Ryan said.
Coffield agreed. "We're concerned that the Department of Human Services and their child welfare program, which frankly we feel isn't quite up to par in identifying and handling trafficking cases within the foster care system, might contract with somebody who is less qualified than Ho'ola Na Pua to provide those services."
Ho'ola Na Pua, an independent organization, will open a long-term treatment facility for sexually abused teenage girls in a year or so.
Coffield said rather than duplicating what the nonprofit is doing, the state should fund an emergency center for short-term stays.
"Get them all of the different services they need in one location, psychological assessment, legal assistance, medical services, and start the continuum of care from the outset at a lock down facility," he said.
House Bill 125 passed the House Human Services Committee with amendments. If the measure clears a floor vote, it will go the House Judiciary Committee.
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