Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Global Strategic Operatives present educational training focusing on human trafficking 

April 16, 2024

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Global Strategic Operatives present educational training focusing on human trafficking 

Human trafficking is a huge international problem affecting all parts of the globe, including Martha’s Vineyard, but seeing the warning signs isn’t always easy. That’s why Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is teaming up with Global Strategic Operatives to raise awareness.

The educational programs are brought to the community by seasonal resident Deb O’Hara Rusckowski. Deb, a registered nurse, and her husband Steve Rusckowski, former CEO of Quest Diagnostics, were instrumental in bringing the resources together for the TestMV COVID-19 testing site in 2020. Raising awareness of human trafficking and preventing it has become a passion of Deb. She serves as a special advisor to the ambassador on Human Trafficking for the Mission of Malta to the United Nations in New York and is founder of Global Strategic Operatives and The O’Connell House.

“Basically, based on studies that state 88-92% of all survivors seek out medical care while being trafficked, and out of that, 68% present in the Emergency Department—this puts healthcare providers on the front lines!” she said. “As a former ICU and ED nurse myself, and now seeing the horrors of what trafficked victims go through, this training is critical for health care professionals and all hospital staff, to learn how to identify and what appropriate actions to take, especially through strong relationships with law enforcement and community resources.”

There will be two human trafficking sessions – Friday, May 3, from 8 to 9:30 a.m., and Friday, May 10, from 8 to 9:30 a.m. The sessions will be held virtually and participants can register here.

“The objective of this training program is to raise awareness about human trafficking, equip participants with knowledge to recognize signs of trafficking, and empower them with skills to respond effectively to suspected cases,” a summary of the workshop states. “Additionally, participants will receive supplementary materials such as handouts, resources, and contact information for relevant organizations working in the field of anti-trafficking.”

On May 3, Human Trafficking 101 will feature presentations by Kristina Barkey, MSN, RNC-OB, who has more than three decades experience working in a high-risk, high-volume labor and delivery unit in New Jersey. She currently serves as a per diem contractor for the United Nations Human Trafficking Division’s Clinical Professional Development Education Division. She has facilitated training at John Hopkins, Saint Francis Healthcare, Catholic Services, and other international organizations. Kristina will be joined by Sgt. Thomas Daly of the Lowell Police Department, who also works with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. He was involved in dismantling two human trafficking organizations. During the session, participants will learn what constitutes human trafficking, who is involved in it, how it happens, and why awareness is so important.

The May 10 session, Human Trafficking 102, will feature presentations by Anna Cerra, RN, DPN, MSN MSHA, who is the Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer for the Magnet designated Greenwich Hospital, Yale New Haven Health. As Greenwich Hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer, she has been honored for her work to stop human trafficking and to educate healthcare organizations around the world to identify victims of human trafficking. Anna will be joined by Sonya Drottar, LCSW, ACM, who works for Dignity Health, now Common Spirit Health as the Director of Care Coordination. The session is more geared toward clinical staff, law enforcement, and public health officials and will focus on bringing awareness to the signs of human trafficking in patients who either seek medical attention in emergency departments or labor and delivery services. Training will include a list of signs, or “red flags,” that might indicate human trafficking is occurring, as well as screening questions that can identify potential victims.

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