Skip to Content

UC Expert: Better Communication Leading To Awareness Of Trafficking

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
UC Expert: Better Communication Leading To Awareness Of Trafficking

A local human trafficking expert said more communication is leading to greater public awareness of the issue.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reported an increase of more than 400 percent in calls and tips to its human trafficking hotline. WillowBend Farms CEO and Co-Founder Sarah McKinnis said communication between agencies is key to spreading awareness.

“How do we facilitate and empower local communities and not just wait on the federal or state level,” McKinnis said. “How do we marry what’s happening at the federal and state level with the local level again to provide services sooner for individuals, and so that potential situations are identified quicker.”

McKinnis said providing training for leaders in communities is vital. WillowBend Farms is an anti-human trafficking non-profit that focuses on bringing the Upper Cumberland the resources it needs to fight trafficking crimes. McKinnis said state and local entities have to cooperate to offer communities the education and tools they need to prevent human trafficking crimes.

McKinnis sits on the Tennessee Human Trafficking Advisory Council. She said over the past 18 months, the council has been working on a project to map out exactly how to distribute needed resources for awareness and education to every corner of the state, particularly areas more prone to human trafficking like the Upper Cumberland.

“One thing that we are heavily committed to is collaboration with other nonprofits so that we are working together and not against each other because we are stronger together,” McKinnis said. “We are absolutely seeing the outcomes of that. I’m very thankful that communities are open.”

WillowBend Farms hosts conferences and events to educate teachers and community leaders on how to spot human trafficking early and find help when they see it.

McKinnis said heightened awareness is also a product of new groups being put together with human trafficking prevention as their focus. In 2019, WillowBend Farms started the Human Trafficking and Opioid Initiative to connect multidisciplinary teams with the power to address human trafficking in the Upper Cumberland. The initiative combines law enforcement, prosecution, mental health providers, and more to create a continuum of care, and community-based attention to the crimes.

McKinnis said she feels a sense of satisfaction seeing data prove that their work is leading to increased awareness.

“I do just encourage the community just to be vigilant and have the training and know that there are resources out there for the family, for the community, and for individuals,” McKinnis said.


The post UC Expert: Better Communication Leading To Awareness Of Trafficking appeared first on News Talk 94.1/AM 1600.