CARSON CITY — Donations totaling more than $3,500 were delivered Thursday to state officials for deposit in a newly created fund to combat human trafficking in Nevada.
Father Mike Patterson, director of advocacy for the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Nevada, and Allan Smith, director of advocacy for the Religious Alliance in Nevada, made the donations to Mike Willden, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The new fund was created by Assembly Bill 311 from the 2013 legislative session. The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle, D-Sparks, John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, and others, to create a vehicle for the state to accept donations to fight human trafficking.
The money will be used to establish or provide programs or services to help victims of human trafficking.
There were groups interested in donating money to help sex trafficking victims but there was no mechanism to do so, Sprinkle said.
The bill will dovetail with another measure passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval which redefined the crime of sex trafficking. Assembly Bill 67, championed by state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, is directed at pimps who take over the lives of young people, often homeless and runway children, and turn them into prostitutes.
The law now recognizes that children who are forced into a life of prostitution are victims and not criminals, Sprinkle said. The grant money will be used to help the victims escape a life of servitude, he said.
“We don’t have that many programs in the state because until recently, these young people have been considered criminals, ” he said. “Once we defined them as victims we realized we needed to provide services. I’m so glad that this is the direction the state is going in.”
Willden said money donated to the fund will be available for use by nonprofit groups and government organizations, and might provide an opportunity to gain federal matching funds.
Information about applying for the grant money or donating can be found at the agency’s website at dhhs.nv.gov/Grants/.
Checks can also be made out to DHHS-Human Trafficking Fund and mailed to: Director’s Office, Department of Health and Human Services, 4126 Technology Way, Suite 100, Carson City, NV 89706.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.