WELCH, WV (WVNS) — McDowell County Teachers listened intently and took notes, as the speaker told stories of children in West Virginia who were trafficked.
“It’s pretty alarming,” said Perry Blankenship, McDowell County School’s Student Services Coordinator.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey started an initiative to bring training to people across the state. Robert Leslie, Senior Deputy Attorney General, said that training aims to educate people about human trafficking and the signs of a victim.
“We recognized a problem around the state involving the opioid epidemic. In dealing with the opioid epidemic, we were then given notice of a secondary problem, and that was human trafficking,” Leslie explained.
The Attorney General’s office found people who were addicted to drugs were turning to human trafficking to fund their habits.
“Basically, what we saw around the state were people who were addicted to drugs, being placed into such economic hardship in an effort to chase that addiction, that they were being forced to sell themselves, and sometimes drastically enough to even sell their own children,” Leslie said.
McDowell County School administrators requested this training because the opioid epidemic is so prevalent in the county. Blankenship said they are already seeing signs of trafficking and abuse in some of their students..
“We live in a high drug area, a lot of behavior issues and a lot of abuse. And there’s no doubt there’s some of this situation occurring within our community,” Blankenship said.
As mandated reporters, teachers wanted to learn the signs of victims of human trafficking.