Victims of the human and sex trafficking trade are finding some hope here in Austin. The Hope Through Health clinic works to heal both physical and mental wounds and connect victims with social services.
For the last year the clinic has operated on volunteers and donations. It's the first of its kind in Texas according to Dr. Ted Held. Held serves as the medical director for the Hope clinic but it's not just medical care being provided.
"If you're a person who has been traumatized it's painful to have to tell your story over and over and relive that traumatic event," explained Held.
Seton, CommUnity Care, University of Texas School of Social Work and Nursing, law enforcement and other social services support the clinic.
Dr. Melinda McNiel cares for some of the victims. "Elevated blood pressure, cholesterol concerns and then more specific complaints related to female genital mutilation, post-traumatic stress disorder and things you would typically see in patients who experience assault," said McNiel.
The clinic meets twice a month and has helped around 70 patients.
"Trafficking is basically slavery and it's a quiet crime people are hidden and locked away," explained Kay Mailander. She's with Refugee Services of Texas and says it's hard to know the scope or the number of cases simply because of the nature of the crime.
Last year Texas had 2,236 calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Texas ranked the second highest in the country.
Held and the team see a need in Central Texas. They hope their work continues as they help victims heal.
"It's a warm welcoming environment for people who have been treated really, really badly," explained Mailander about the clinic.
1-888-373-7888 is the hotline number if you or someone you know needs help. The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day.