Introducing H.E.A.L.T.H. Clinic and Training Centre

H (healthcare). E (education). A (advocacy). L (linkage). T (trauma informed). H (healing).

H.E.A.L.T.H. is unique wellness experience for those 13 years of age and older who are at risk of, who are experiencing or who have experienced human trafficking.

Serving Eastern Ontario, the clinic will offer primary and preventative health care in a thoughtfully designed space that will offer specialized services in a safe, non-judgmental, LGBTQ-trans friendly and compassionate setting. The clinic is exclusively designed to care for and support trafficked persons who can often find mainstream health care environments traumatic.

H.E.A.L.T.H. is a collaborative project between Voice Found, Ottawa Victim Services and Primary Health Care Nurse Practioner, Tara Leach.

Our mission is to create a single space where regional service providers are working together to provide comprehensive, holistic, trauma-informed care to our clients. H.E.A.L.T.H will compose concierge-like services aimed to increase health and well-being, reduce harms, while also promoting self-care patient behaviours.

When required, we will refer patients to trusted sub-specialists.

Clinic Services:

An example of the trauma informed, holistic, client centered, and culturally sensitive health care services that will be available at H.E.A.L.T.H include the following:

  • Identification, documentation and treatment for acute and chronic illnesses/injuries
  • Annual physical examinations with cancer prevention screening;
  • Vaccinations;
  • Contraception counselling and administration of contraception; including all approved emergency contraception options
  • Risk assessment of Infectious disease with testing and treatment
  • Medical clearance evaluations;
  • Mental health management and treatment for PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse
  • Case management

All above wellness options will be provided following an informed consent approach for clients.

Training for front line workers:

H.E.A.L.T.H will provide an innovative and unique teaching environment for our front line workers.  Currently there is no teaching environment that allows for dedicated time for healthcare professionals to work with survivors of human trafficking in a mentored and supported environment that models trauma informed, client centered, and culturally informed care.

Exposure to the H.E.A.L.T.H environment will provide a space for practical application of trauma informed principles that provide a competency based solution to the education needs of providers This will strengthen the capacity of providers to effectively respond to human trafficking in their communities.

Survivor Employment

Primary prevention efforts for our community will be facilitated with the assistance of survivors of human trafficking. Survivors are essential to support the delivery of training for awareness of human trafficking as they offer first hand knowledge and experience.  Therefore,  H.E.A.L.T.H will provide an opportunity for survivors to develop and practice presentation skills as they will be directly employed at the clinic in a number of additional roles such as reception and delivery of specialized wellness activities such as yoga, healthy eating and art classes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is this kind of clinic required?

Frontline service providers are often “reluctant to engage with clients when they are suspecting violence due to knowledge deficits, time constraints, and lack of confidence that services will respond quickly and/or appropriately to the person’s needs.” (Bridging Services for Women, Ottawa, 2013) Complicated health care needs that are rooted in trauma are not properly assessed or managed within ER’s  or walk in clinics which is where most HT survivors access health care.

One trafficking victim can take the same amount of the provider’s time as 20 domestic violence victims. (Clawson, H.; Small, K.; Go, E.; Myles, B. Needs assessment for service providers of trafficking victims. Fairfax, VA: Caliber; 2003.)

Because most victims do not have timely access to health care, by the time they reach a clinician it is likely that health problems are well advanced. Commonly it is the overt symptoms that are managed and the underlying root of trauma is not captured leaving the survivor of HT at risk for future violence and long term health consequence.

Those who are trafficked are at high risk for acquiring multiple sexually transmitted infections.  For those with a uterus the sequelae of multiple forced and unsafe abortions results in chronic pain, future infertility, and profound psychological trauma.  Physical abuse and torture often occur, which can result in broken bones, contusions, dental problems (e.g., loss of teeth), and/or cigarette burns.

Psychological violence results in high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, suicidal ideation, drug addiction, and a multitude of somatic symptoms. When providers were asked in one study about their experiences working with victims of trafficking, they reported that these victims are less stable, more isolated, have higher levels of fear, more severe trauma, and greater mental health needs than other victims of crime.

What about safety of clients and staff?

As a collective, we have operated with strict safety protocols and these will be implemented in the clinic.

What are the hours of operation for HEALTH?

The clinic will be open the equivalent of 2 days a week with hours and days to be determined. The clinic will be appointment based.

Who is the Nurse Practitioner?

Tara Leach is a Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner (PHC-NP) and a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.   Tara’s experience in Health Care began as an emergency room nurse, and this role led her to emergency rooms in Ottawa, Boston, New York and Philadelphia (to name a few).  Over the past 15 years, Tara has concentrated her career on adults and adolescent victims of personal trauma.

Tara has been a member of the Ontario Network Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centers (SADVTC) since 2003 and is currently the clinical lead for the Ottawa SADVTC program as a front line worker.  In her current role, Tara is responsible for the medical/forensic needs of those who have been victims of sexual violence, reproductive coercion, and partner violence.   Additionally, Tara Leach is a part-time professor for the Victimology program at Algonquin College.

Tara has participated in an advisory capacity on projects funded by the Ontario Women’s Directorate.  Examples of such projects are:

  • Recognizing and responding to the common but “misunderstood” sequela of Sexual Assault (in current review).
  • Addressing past sexual assault in clinical settings
  • Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) Guidelines for Care of persons who have been Sexual Assaulted

Additional advisory projects include

  • Competency development of Elder Abuse Nurse Examiner Curricula to enhance care delivery for Ontario Network SADVTC.
  • Competency development for health care providers working with victims of Human Trafficking (HEAL)

At the provincial level, Tara Leach is a trainer for the provincial network’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training.  Tara was also a key contributor to the 2016-2017 revision of the SANE curricula for the Ontario Network.  She is currently the co-chair for the Provincial Network Nursing Committee.

Tara has presented locally, nationally and internationally on various topics related to intentional violence of persons.

What about other programs in the city that seem similar?

There will be no forensic evidence collection completed at this clinic.  The HEALTH clinic is primary care focused to allow for comprehensive, preventative health care for clients.

H.E.A.L.T.H. is a collaborative effort between Tara Leach, Ottawa Victim Services and Voice Found.

Funding for this project has been made available through Ontario Ministry Of Community and Social Services, Anti-Human Trafficking Office.