Dr. Martha Felini honored by Dallas County Commissioners Court

October 16, 2014

Martha Felini, MPH, PhD, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UNT Health Science Center, has been honored for her leadership role in the Prostitute Diversion Initiative (PDI) in Dallas.

The Dallas County Commissioners Court recently approved a resolution recognizing Dr. Felini’s work.

"It’s an honor to receive it," she said, pointing out that much credit for the initiative must go to volunteers, law enforcement officials and hospitals.

"It takes a whole team," Dr. Felini added.

PDI provides women arrested for prostitution with two choices: jail or rehabilitation. If the woman chooses rehab, she is given medical and mental health evaluations, along with substance abuse services. The ongoing program was implemented in 2007.

"Ironically, this wouldn’t have happened without 9/11," Dr. Felini said. After 9/11, truck stops were judged to be possible sites for terrorist attacks, leading to the increased attention of law enforcement.

That led to stepped-up prostitution arrests at truck stops and a heightened appreciation of the problem.

"A lot of advocacy groups looked into the program and really wanted to get it implemented," Dr. Felini said.

She said that the process has prompted her and others to view the women involved as more than just prostitutes.

"It’s a labor of love," she said. "You open your eyes to a new population that the public doesn’t see."

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