Texas legislators, pediatric trauma psychiatrists from UTHealth, and the Houston Police Department recently came together to discuss a new state law designed to help child sex trafficking survivors recover.

Of the nearly 80,000 survivors of child sex trafficking in Texas, half are trafficked in Houston. To shed light on the issue, State Sen. Carol Alvarado and Rep. Sarah Davis held a press conference at UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center.

Alvarado said $15 million in funding has been set aside to improve the quality and accessibility to care for sex trafficking survivors. UTHealth, which is uniquely situated to help these survivors with a continuum of services to fill in the gaps that exist from point of rescue to recovery, will apply to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission for the funds.

“Senate Bill 20 will allow us an opportunity to work with the local care coordination team and community stakeholders, who are already doing this incredible work, to strategically fill in the gaps of care for child sex traffic survivors and their families,” Elizabeth Newlin, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences said at the event. “The problem is enormous.”

Under the proposed plan, inpatient treatment would be provided at UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center and outpatient care through the UTHealth Trauma and Resilience Center in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at McGovern Medical School. UTHealth would partner with other organizations in this important field to assess additional needs for these vulnerable survivors.

Other components include creating opportunities for research and workforce expansion related to the treatment of child sex trafficking survivors and assisting other institutions in establishing similar programs throughout the state.

Houston Police Department Assistant Chief J.G. Jones also spoke at the event.