State awards $753K in local grants to aid trafficking survivors

A collection of five Cincinnati-area nonprofits received more than $753,000 from the state of Ohio to support local survivors of human trafficking.

Awards went to the Ohio Justice and Policy Center ($200,000), Center for Addiction Treatment ($198,037.81), Cincinnati Union Bethel ($182,040.51), The Salvation Army ($100,000) and BLOC Ministries, Inc. ($73,050).

Downtown Cincinnati skyline. (Casey Weldon)
Photo by Casey Weldon

Funding came from Ohio’s new Direct Services for Victims of Human Trafficking Grant Program. Launched in September by Gov. Mike DeWine, the initiative seeks to provide enhanced assistance and services to what the state called a “growing number of sex and labor trafficking victims in need of support.”

In total, 30 organizations across 14 counties received more than $4.6 million during the initial round of funding.

“This new program will help ensure that human trafficking survivors in Ohio get the specialized support they need to help take back control of their lives,” DeWine said.

A problem close to home

These grants come at a time of immense need in Ohio, especially in southern Ohio. A 2020 report by the Human Trafficking Institute showed that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio – which includes Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton – charged the second-highest number of new federal human trafficking defendants in the nation in 2020.

Partially in response to that report, DeWine created the Direct Services program in partnership with the Ohio General Assembly, with funding from the state’s operating budget. 

It was initially funded at $4 million, but the state decided to add $600,000 in response to a “significant number of quality grant applications,” according to Maria Busch, coordinator of the Governor’s Human Trafficking Task Force.

Services funded by these grant dollars include things such as mental health care, substance use disorder treatment, education, employment support and residential placement.

“Human trafficking victims have unique needs and require intensive support to overcome their trauma,” Busch said. “These grants will allow service providers across the state to have greater capacity to meet those needs.”

Helping victims become survivors

One of the Hamilton County organizations to receive funding is Center for Addiction Treatment, also known as CAT.

Founded in 1970, CAT provides an individualized care model for those affected by addiction to drugs, alcohol and/or gambling. The agency plans to use these new state dollars to support ongoing efforts to provide human trafficking survivors with addiction treatment, mental health and family services.

The nonprofit voiced a commitment to providing human trafficking survivors with “compassionate, evidence-based support that spans the agency’s full continuum of care,” consisting of more than a dozen inpatient and outpatient offerings.

Center for Addiction Treatment

CAT hopes to amplify its efforts on this front through partnerships with other local service providers, including Resurge Recovery, Women of Alabaster, Weightless Anchor and The Salvation Army’s End Slavery Cincinnati effort.

“At CAT, we supply ongoing training to our staff to not only identify, but competently treat survivors of human trafficking,” said Rachel Johnson, vice president of clinical services. 

CAT and other grant recipients will receive their funding over the course of two years across multiple areas of the agency to maximize impact. That includes funding essential supplies for survivors and specific population-support-trained personnel.

“Our agency looks forward to continuing (to) provide survivors with respect, compassion, and effective care,” Johnson said.

Center for Addiction Treatment

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