Mercy Health Assembles Community Resources to Address Human Trafficking

YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO (November 2, 2016) – Human trafficking has long been a human rights issue – and one that many people assume occurs only outside of the United States. But it’s happening right here in Northeast Ohio, which is why Mercy Health – Youngstown is hosting the event “Human Trafficking in Our Community: How Do We Respond?” this Thursday, Nov. 3, at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital.


The U.S. State Department estimates that as many as 800,000 people are trafficked across the United States every year – from both international locations and within our own boarders. The United Nations defines human trafficking as the act of forcing or otherwise coercing a person – through payment or other means – to submit to sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or other practices similar to slavery, servitude or even the removal of organs.

Some statistics suggest Ohio is among the top five states for rates of human trafficking.


The severity of the problem in Ohio, coupled with the key learnings of a Mercy Health – Youngstown team that attended a conference where the issue was discussed this summer, compelled the Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley to spearhead and fund the event.


“Several of our leaders had a powerful experience learning more about the incidence of human trafficking during a conference this summer. That experience impacted us on a very human, very personal level,” said Paul Homick, president of the Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley. “Knowing that an estimated 80 percent of victims of human trafficking reach out for help through the healthcare system, we knew we needed to take a central role in bringing together the right people to take action.”


The event will be held in the Finnegan Auditorium at the hospital from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. In addition to Homick, speakers will include:


  • Major Jeff Allen, Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department/Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission (OOCIC Task Force)
  • Susan Laird, LPCC-S, CDCA, vice president, Northeast Ohio Coalition Against Human Trafficking
  • Veronica Scherbauer, criminal justice initiatives coordinator, Office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine
  • Barb Turner, Director of the Mercy Health – Youngstown Magnet Program and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program


Following presentations about Ohio human trafficking statistics and local law enforcement initiatives, a roundtable will highlight current efforts in the Mahoning Valley to identify and support victims. The following organizations were invited to participate in the roundtable:


  • Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley
  • Beatitude House
  • Catholic Charities Diocese of Youngstown
  • Emmanuel Community Care Center
  • Mahoning County Children’s Services
  • Mercy Health – Youngstown
  • Mercy Health – Youngstown Police Department
  • Office of Rob Portman, U.S. Senator for Ohio
  • Rape Crisis and Counseling Center
  • The Red Cross
  • Rescue Mission
  • Sojourner House
  • Someplace Safe
  • Youngstown Community Center
  • Youngstown Dorothy Day House
  • Youngstown Police Department

The goal of the event is to mobilize the community resources that are already active in response to human trafficking cases. Mercy Health – Youngstown anticipates the event will spur specific action plans, which may include guidelines, processes and transition procedures for coordination by the organizations involved.


“This event, and the conversation it will start, is very well aligned with what we try to do in the Mahoning Valley every day,” Homick said. “For Mercy Health – Youngstown, it’s all about improving access to care, advancing care and building healthier communities. We’re committed to extending that access, care and health to people in our community who have had their rights violated and their voices silenced by human trafficking.”          


Note to Media:

While media are encouraged to attend this event, please note that some agenda items – especially those focused on law enforcement strategy and response – are highly confidential and cannot be captured or reported. We will identify these portions of the program. We appreciate your commitment to protecting the safety of our community by omitting these items from your reporting.


 About Mercy Health – Mercy Health – Youngstown is an integrated health system in the Mahoning Valley, which encompasses the Youngstown/Warren metropolitan area – Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties in Ohio. It is part of Mercy Health, which is headquartered in Cincinnati and is the largest health system in Ohio and one of the largest Catholic health systems in the United States. Mercy Health – Youngstown provides a full spectrum of healthcare services – acute inpatient and trauma, outpatient and ambulatory, rehabilitation, behavioral, emergency and urgent care, primary care physicians in patient-centered medical homes, specialist physician care, home health, home medical equipment, long-term care and hospice care, as well as Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley. Learn more at