The Missoula Indian Health Center found out late last week that they were awarded a highly sought-after federal grant to help fight human trafficking.

Azure Sky McGinty, Development and Communications Coordinator provided details of the announcement.

“We received notice that we were awarded a Department of Justice grant for about $450,000 to combat sex trafficking of urban American Indian and Alaskan natives,” said McGinty. “Honestly, we didn’t think we were going to get it. They only gave out seven awards nationally, and even though we didn’t think we would get it, here we are.”

McGinty said there is a two prong approach to utilizing the federal funds.

“The first is that we will be providing direct services to survivors of sex trafficking,” she said. It’s a comprehensive services model that the Office for Victims of Crime passed on to us. They include things like primary health care, behavioral health services, dental work and that kind of thing. We will also develop a memorandum of understanding with different support services throughout Missoula, to help create a safety net for survivors in our community.”

McGinty described the second prong in the grant usage.

“In addition to direct services we will also be training our (Native American) community and different service providers on culturally relevant ways to approach sex trafficking in our community,” she said. “We’ll provide a host of different training and outreach to train law enforcement and health providers, teachers and hotel workers with ways to understand how sex trafficking is implemented and the way in particular that indigenous  women and girls are trafficked.”

McGinty said sex and human trafficking is a problem plaguing the Native American community.

“This is an epidemic and a crisis, not only in our state but nationwide,” she said.

"Those outreach pieces will be part of that awareness, and then reaching out to survivors with all those services that we can provide.”

McGinty said the center is already putting the grant to use by searching for a project director to spearhead the entire movement.