Catholic Charities, attorney general win trafficking grant

By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor

Attorney General Andy Beshear, left, and Marissa Castellanos of Catholic Charities announced Oct. 14 that their offices will share a $1.5 million federal grant to combat human trafficking. (Photo Special to The Record)
Attorney General Andy Beshear, left, and Marissa Castellanos of Catholic Charities announced Oct. 14 that their offices will share a $1.5 million federal grant to combat human trafficking. (Photo Special to The Record)

Catholic Charities of Louisville and the Kentucky attorney general’s office will share a $1.5 million federal grant to combat human trafficking in the commonwealth.

Attorney General Andy Beshear and Marissa Castellanos, the human trafficking program manager for Catholic Charities, announced the award during a joint press conference Oct. 14 at Catholic Charities’ offices on West Market Street. The two agencies have worked together since 2013 through a statewide anti-trafficking task force.

“Human trafficking is a growing and gruesome crime — it has no place in our commonwealth,” Beshear said in an announcement about the grant. “I am extremely proud that my office and Catholic Charities have been selected to receive this award, which is going to help us support victims and continue to bring real solutions to the fight against human trafficking.”

The U.S. Department of Justice grant, which will be distributed during the next three years, is one of only five awarded nation-wide this year. The money will be used in four ways to curb trafficking in Kentucky, according to the announcement:

  • Expand training of law enforcement personnel and prosecutors about “victim-centered investigations and prosecutions,” the announcement said.
  • Fund the collection of data and research on trafficking in Kentucky. Castellanos said the information will be used to produce a three-year study on the effectiveness of anti-trafficking efforts here and identify areas for improvement.
  • Fund two statewide positions in Beshear’s office. A special investigator  will be hired to work with local law enforcement on human trafficking cases, said Castellanos, noting, “The more specialized training you have, the more likely you will identify cases that have  not been identified.”
    And a manager will be hired to coordinate the statewide task force. Since its inception in 2013, the task force has been run by volunteers, Castellanos noted.
  • Additional resources for victim services statewide. This part of the grant will directly affect Catholic Charities, which provides services for trafficking victims around Kentucky. The Louisville-based agency has staff in Louisville, Covington and Lexington to work with victims.“It’s incredibly exciting,” said Castellanos, noting that the grant comes with flexibility the agency needs to tailor services to victims’ needs.“A lot of our victim-services money was focused on Louisville metro. We will have the ability to use our resources for any kind of trafficking victims — labor or sex (trafficking victims), male or female, domestic or foreign. A lot of our funding is limited to one type of case.”

Castellanos said the new grant provides money for a broad range of direct services, such as food, clothing, short- and long-term housing and legal services.

And it provides funding to hire personnel who can manage the cases of trafficking victims, a much-needed area of funding, she said.

Catholic Charities of Louisville, which also is funded by the Catholic Services Appeal, has aided trafficking victims since 2007. Since then, the agency has provided direct services, such as food and housing, and case management to 432 survivors of trafficking. The agency has trained more than 25,000 people to identify trafficking victims. And it offers a 10-week preventative program for young girls who are considered at risk of being trafficked.

The number of human trafficking cases reported in Kentucky increases each year by as much as 50 percent, according to the announcement about the grant. In 2013, 51 cases were reported and in 2015 there were 125 victims identified, the announcement said.

Castellanos said trafficking isn’t necessarily increasing; law enforcement is getting better at identifying it.

“The more resources that go into it, the more you can identify,” she said.

Those interested in learning more about trafficking and how to combat it may visit Catholic Charities’ trafficking website,, or call the attorney general’s Office of Child Abuse and Exploitation Prevention at 502-696-5300.

To report suspected cases of trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

Marnie McAllister
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Marnie McAllister
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