Island University Partnership Receives 450K Department of Justice Grant for Specialized Services and Mentoring for Sex Trafficking Victims

By Luisa Buttler | Published: March 01, 2019

Island University Partnership Receives 450K Department of Justice Grant for Specialized Services and Mentoring for Sex Trafficking Victims
Dr. Miller was invited to the United Nations to speak on health care and human trafficking and was also invited join the steering committee of the newly formed United Nations Global Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force. (Photo from Nov. 2018)

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Although some may discount the severity of human trafficking in Texas, the available statistics are startling. It is estimated there are approximately 79,000 youth victims of sex trafficking in Texas, which costs the state around $6.6 billion in response services. Texas is second only after California in the number of human trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also reports that only an estimated one in 100 victims are identified.

The recently awarded Department of Justice – Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (DOJ OJJDP) “Specialized Services and Mentoring for Child and Youth Victims of Sex Trafficking” $450,000 grant will enhance and expand mentoring services, direct victim services, and education to health care providers, law enforcement, and the community. 

The College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CONHS) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is doing its part to support the victims of human trafficking through collaborations with the Texas Coastal Bend Border Region Human Trafficking Task Force (CBBR Task Force) which the program director, Dr. Cathy Miller, co-chairs. Miller is currently a research associate professor at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and former CONHS professor at A&M-Corpus Christi from 2015-2018.

Miller says the DOJ grant supports overwhelming victim services needs while taking a preventative approach by providing mentoring services to victims, survivors, and youth at risk of victimization by providing various support activities and services. The award also provides for research on the outcomes of mentoring this extremely vulnerable population.

 “The cases of children victimized that the public hears about in the media are only a tiny fraction of those identified,” said Miller. “The CBBR Task Force and this program targets the 19 county Texas Department of State Health Services Region 11 and facilitates collaborations between law enforcement, health care, and victim services throughout the region and the state since 2015.”

Dr. Pamela Greene, CONHS assistant professor and chair, and Dr. Christina Murphey, CONHS associate professor and chair, will have roles in administrating and implementing the grant. Greene will work as the mental health officer for the project, while Murphey will serve as the data officer.  

CBBR member collaborators include, but are not limited to: Homeland Security Investigations, Nueces County Juvenile Detention, Corpus Christi Police Department, the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office, New Life Refuge Ministries, the United States Marshals Service, and Driscoll Children’s Hospital’s CARE Team. The core of the project is the Empowerment Coalition of Texas (EChO) mentoring program for sex trafficking victims and those at risk for victimization, which Dr. Miller also co-founded and directs.

“Child sex trafficking is a very deep and complex societal and public health problem that requires a diverse and exceptionally well-trained small army of community, state, and federal collaborators. The support for this program from our community collaborators has been phenomenal. This project would not be possible without such seamless, cohesive collaborations and we are humbled by their support.” said Miller.

Only three of these DOJ OJJDP grants were awarded nationally in 2018.

“The fact that the DOJ OJJDP awarded one of the three to A&M-Corpus Christi and the CBBR Task Force speaks to the recognized vulnerabilities and need in our region, and yet at the same time, recognizes the promise of the tremendous impact the Island University, the CBBR Task Force, and community partners can have on empowering victims and survivors, and those at risk, to recover from adversity, abuse, and exploitation that most of us will never know,” said Miller.

For more information

Those interested in a CBBR Task Force member providing human trafficking prevention and awareness education to your group, school, or organization, please email cathy.miller@tamucc.edu. If you are interested in being trained as a mentor, also email Miller for more information. Mentors must go through an approval process and must be able to pass an FBI fingerprint background check and have no criminal convictions.