Congressman Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, hosted meetings in O’Fallon in recent days on human trafficking and opioid abuse.
Bost, who represents the 12 Illinois Congressional District, discussed local efforts to fight the growing humanitarian crisis during a roundtable at the O’Fallon Police Department on Tuesday, Aug. 22.
In 2016, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received nearly 27,000 calls, and 7,500 human trafficking cases were reported. Illinois ranked ninth in reported cases, and those numbers continue to rise — cases increased 36 percent in the U.S. from 2015 to 2016.
These are mostly women and children. They are sold on the black market, forced into prostitution and made to work in miserable conditions for little or no pay. Many traffickers get their victims addicted to drugs in order to manipulate them more easily.
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Bost was joined by representatives from the O’Fallon Police Department, the FBI, Hoyleton Youth Services, and the Illinois Department of Child & Family Services. Additionally, a local human trafficking advocate and a survivor of human trafficking offered their personal insights.
“Southern Illinois is not immune from the scourge of human trafficking,” said Bost. “This modern-day slavery many times is hidden in plain sight, as our law enforcement officers described tonight. It breaks my heart to hear the stories of families torn apart right here in our community. This is exactly why I’ve supported and will continue to support legislation to crack down on human trafficking and implement a stronger detection system nationwide.”
On Thursday, Aug. 24, Bost held an opioid task force meeting at the Katy Cavins Community Center in O’Fallon to examine existing data and develop recommendations to create and implement policies at the federal, state, and local levels to curtail the opioid epidemic.
“The number of families affected by the opioid crisis in our communities are staggering,” Bost said. “But we have to remember addiction doesn’t care about your race, gender, income or political leanings. The people battling addiction are moms and dads, sons and daughters, neighbors and friends.”
Bost received input from law enforcement officers, first responders, educators, and treatment specialists on current efforts to fight the opioid epidemic and ways that these efforts can be improved.
On Thursday, Bost was joined by Dr. Kari Karidis, a crisis interventionist and recovery support specialist with Companion’s Companion; Chief Master Sgt. Scott Boothe, of the Illinois State Police narcotics division; Dr. Andrea Taylor, clinic director of VAMC St. Louis; Karin Zosel, legislative affairs director of the Illinois Department of Justice; Percy Menzies, of Assisted Recovery Centers of America; Special Agent James Shroba, of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
“One of the main takeaways from this task force meeting was that we have our work cut out for us,” Bost said. “Legislators, law enforcement, educators, and treatment specialists can’t solve the problem alone. We’re all working towards the same goal of eradicating the opioid scourge, but better coordination is needed among these groups. That is exactly why I hosted this task force meeting — to create this vitally important open dialogue.”