BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A bill looking to help human trafficking survivors is making its way through the legislative session that would put agencies across the state under one roof in the governor’s office. The bill looks to create the Office of Human Trafficking Prevention and was discussed in the Senate Finance Committee.
Across Louisiana there are about 60 agencies, state programs and nonprofits, that seek to help human trafficking survivors. But there is a bit of a disconnect between their services.
“The problem is there is sometimes the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” Senator Ronnie Johns said.
Sen. Johns’ bill would create the program through the governor’s office. It would get all the agencies working together to share their services and work with law enforcement on the prevention of the crime.
Last year 759 people were reported as trafficked in the state, with 70% being children. According to the Department of Children and Family Services those numbers are only from half the agencies since many did not report during the pandemic. The year prior there were over 900 cases.
“The problem is we have authority through the law but it’s hard for us to mandate that and to have that overall relationship with all service providers in the state for adult and child trafficking,” Child Welfare Manager Christy Tate said. “We really feel like the governor’s office taking that on will enable more providers to report so we can have a better idea of our numbers.”
The office of four people appointed by the governor will work with the agencies to increase housing for survivors and get a better understanding of how severe the situation is. Agencies emphasize it is something that touches every corner or the state.
“It is in every part of our state, most of the regions in our state. In the parishes we have numbers from each. Some of the other high areas are baton rouge, Caddo Parish,” Tate said. “Of course New Orleans is always one but there’s others. It’s a statewide problem and it’s domestic, it’s not just people coming internationally.”
Tate said having the agencies under one roof in the governor’s office has been very successful in other states such as Texas, so they hope that this bill can make it even farther into the session and they can help even more survivors in Louisiana.