Lotus Health launches
September 25, 2019 marks the official launch of Lotus Health, a program spearheaded by the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) Program at The Hospital of Sick Children (SickKids). Lotus Health is a health and advocacy program for children and youth under the age of 18 who have experienced, are currently experiencing, or may be at risk of experiencing commercial sexual exploitation or trafficking.
Although the true scope of the problem is unknown, Canadian crime statistics suggest a remarkable increase in domestic human sex trafficking, with Toronto recognized as a major hub.
Tanya Smith, SCAN Co-Director and Nurse Practitioner, and Dr. Corry Azzopardi, Health Systems Research Scientist, share that they have witnessed a growing demand for paediatric health-care services for trafficked children and youth in recent years. “Young girls, particularly those from marginalized communities, are especially vulnerable to being commercially sexually exploited,” says Azzopardi, who notes the complex physical and psychological trauma of gender-based violence.
“The current state of multidisciplinary and multiagency care for young trafficking victims is highly fragmented and adult-oriented,” says Smith. With their team of nurse practitioners, social workers, psychologists and paediatricians, Lotus Health aims to fill the gaps in systems and services that leave children and youth at risk of falling through the cracks.
“We are collaborating with community partners and subject matter experts with lived experience to offer a continuum of medical and mental health services within a survivor-centred, trauma-informed, developmentally-sensitive, harm-reduction framework,” say Smith and Azzopardi. “Our goal is to help survivors heal from the harmful effects of sex trafficking and promote resilience.”
Lotus Health is part of a five-year project to develop, implement and evaluate a multisector community response protocol to more effectively address child and youth sex trafficking in Toronto. The ultimate objective is to improve the quality, integration, coordination and consistency of care provided to young survivors across sectors.
This project is supported by a federal grant of $937,500 awarded by Women and Gender Equality Canada under the second pillar of It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence. For more information about Lotus Health, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.