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Church to host conference on mental health, human trafficking

News Virginian - 2/13/2018

STAUNTON - A local church will host a conference about two subjects that are difficult to discuss. One is an issue that thousands of Valley residents and families struggle with every day; the other, a world-wide menace - but one that is also intertwined with the local community in ways many people don't realize.

HOPE: Mental Health and Human Trafficking conference will be held at First Baptist Church on Feb. 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"We've talked about it for quite awhile now, knowing that [human trafficking] goes up and down I-81 and probably I-64," Linda Terry, director of Women's Ministry at First Baptist Church, said.

Terry said the church's women's group has been discussing human trafficking and the importance of mental health awareness. So the group contacted their counterpart in Richmond and offered to provide a venue for presenters to educate and raise awareness about both topics.

Participants will be given an overview at the start of the conference, then given the opportunity to join one of four break-out sessions. Two sessions will be held in the morning and two in the afternoon, each with a different topic. A question-and-answer period will be part of each break-out session.

People who have actually walked the streets in Richmond and Virginia Beach, and had contact with possible human trafficking victims, will also be at the conference to share their knowledge and stories.

Terry said she hopes that participants will leave the conference educated about both human trafficking and mental health, but also leave asking themselves: "What can we do from here? What's our response after we've heard about this?"

What can be done right in Staunton about human trafficking and raising awareness about mental health?

First Baptist Church is at 406 W. Frederick St., Staunton. To register, call the church at (540) 886-8333 or email . Registration deadline is Feb. 15. Childcare will be available for children up to fifth grade for participants who are registered before the conference.


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