ST. PAUL – In response to the growing epidemic of child sex trafficking across Minnesota, State Representative Tim Miller (R-Prinsburg) is sponsoring the 2015 Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth bill. Miller’s district is home to Heartland Girls’ Ranch in Benson, one of the primary Safe Harbor sites in the state.
Miller’s legislation would make $8.3 million in critical state investments for safe shelter and supportive services for sexually exploited youth, training for law enforcement and other frontline personnel, and statewide infrastructure to connect child sex trafficking victims to services.
“My wife was a victim of sexual abuse as a child,” Miller said. “To think there are people who profit from this is unconscionable to me. I am thankful Minnesota has taken the problem seriously by passing the Safe Harbor Law in 2011. The legislation I have authored will expand funding of programs such as Heartland Girls’ Ranch along with better support for law enforcement to address the problem.”
Specifically, the bill would add the following to the $5 million currently allocated for Safe Harbor in the Fiscal Year 2016/17 state budget: $4 million for safe shelter and housing; $2 million for a competitive supportive services grant fund; $800,000 for 18 youth outreach workers around the state; and $1.5 million for training and protocol development.
CeCe Terlouw, Executive Director of Heartland Girls’ Ranch, expressed gratitude for Representative Miller’s leadership, as well as for their state Safe Harbor funding. “Heartland Girls’ Ranch is extremely grateful to Representative Tim Miller for his support of the Safe Harbor bill to request additional funds for juvenile victims of sexual exploitation,” Terlouw said. “The funds we have received through Safe Harbor have been absolutely essential in our ability to develop an additional eight beds to serve trafficked girls between the ages of 12 and 17. We continue to raise additional funds to cover the beds and the comprehensive services and long-term care that victims need to recover from their trauma and exploitation and begin a new life.”
Miller’s bill has 23 Republican and Democratic co-authors and will first be debated in the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Reform Committee, where he’s hoping for strong bipartisan support.
“I don’t think any of us can fully understand the amount of pain these trafficked children are facing, but we need to do all we can to combat the problem directly,” Miller said.