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Congressman Brian Higgins listens as Buffalo City Court judge the Hon. Amy Martoche addresses the crowd.
Congressman Brian Higgins listens as Buffalo City Court judge the Hon. Amy Martoche addresses the crowd.

Higgins & Martoche: $527,000-plus in federal funding to expand trauma counseling available to those who come before Buffalo's Human Trafficking Intervention Hub Court

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Thu, Oct 8th 2020 09:00 pm

Innovative approach addresses specialized needs of trafficking survivors struggling with substance abuse & PTSD

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, and Buffalo City Court judge the Hon. Amy Martoche were joined by Evergreen Health, Via Evaluation and the Erie County Department of Health to announce a federal grant totaling $527,112 to provide new, innovative court-based trauma intervention to human trafficking survivors who are justice-involved.

“This court, led by Judge Amy Martoche, does an incredible job of looking beyond the immediate situation and taking a big-picture approach to address the root causes which bring people before the court,” Higgins said. “This incredible new initiative identifies the need to address the underlying trauma experienced by human trafficking survivors immediately and comprehensively to give individuals the best opportunity for a better future.”

Martoche said, “In our experience, the sooner we link human trafficking survivors with experienced trauma-informed counselors, the more likely they are to find a way to leave their trafficking situation. Through this federal grant, obtained with Congressman Higgins’ assistance, we developed a first-of-its-kind initiative allowing survivors the ability to receive mental health services at the outset of their case, which in turn will allow them an opportunity to forge a new path, reducing both their revictimization and recidivism.”

Martoche presides over the first Human Trafficking Hub Court in New York, located in the City of Buffalo and serving seven Western New York counties. She is also a member of the statewide judicial committee on human trafficking. The mission of the specialized court is to connect human trafficking survivors with the resources available to help them recover and flourish.

In Buffalo’s Human Trafficking Intervention Hub Court, 98% of the survivor-defendants are women with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Approximately 80% of defendants have a history of significant trauma, including sexual assault, domestic violence, loss of a parent as a child, and witnessing the injury or death of another person.

The court has identified the need for better access to trauma counseling. The federal grant, awarded through the Bureau of Justice Assistance under Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program, will expand the scope of trauma services available to survivors in Western New York and allow local treatment providers to receive the necessary training to recognize and respond to these specialized cases.

The grant will allow for a trauma-trained clinician identified by Evergreen Health to work on-site in the court alongside confidential advocates provided by the International Institute of Buffalo to eliminate the barriers trauma survivors face when accessing treatment. Founded in 1984, Evergreen Health offers evidenced-based mental health and substance use assessment, support and treatment under a model that is trauma-informed.

Via Evaluations of Buffalo will collect data and provide an independent evaluation of the program’s outcomes on a quarterly basis to inform areas that need improvement as well as those that see success.

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