U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen

From Staff Reports

WASHINGTON, DC — Following discussions at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, Congress has passed legislation to train health care professionals on identifying and assisting human trafficking victims.

Final passage of the Stop, Observe, Ask and Respond (SOAR) Act for a Health and Wellness Training Program was Dec. 20 on a 386 to 6 vote, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis said of the pending law to provide $4 million annually for training.

“The SOAR Act encourages those on the front lines — our health care professionals — to be alert to possible instances of human trafficking when victims appear in clinics or doctors’ offices for needed care,” Cohen said. 

“This bill is the result of an event held at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis in 2016 to discuss and promote human trafficking awareness training, attended by first responders, health care workers, faith-based groups, educators and state and local government officials,” Cohen said. “The energy, encouragement and support of those present inspired me to pursue this legislation.”

The Tennessee Democrat said he and U.S. Reps. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) want first responders to know the “indicators of tell-tale signs of those who have been or are in captivity.”

As a Los Angeles councilman, Cardenas “saw first-hand the danger and heartbreak of human trafficking taking place in our own communities, right under our noses …

“I … hope that the President can sign it into law soon so we can save more lives,” the congressman from California said.

As the lead Republican sponsor on H.R. 767, Wagner said she “worked closely with … Cohen to draft this legislation so services are better-tailored to the needs of trafficking victims and put survivors on the road to recovery.”

Kinzinger said: “Hard to imagine, but human trafficking is happening here in the United States … and it affects all of us… By raising awareness and training our healthcare workers to identify and better care for victims, we can combat this heinous crime.”