BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - UPDATE: On February 24, a monthly expense report for the Louisiana State Police Protective Services for January 2017 was released. The total expense for LSP to travel to Rome with Gov. John Bel Edwards was a little under $15,000.
Of the $14,997.63 spent on the trip, $1650 was spent on lodging, $29,52.92 on transportation, $1,696 on meals and per diem and $138 of miscellaneous expenses. Over $8,500 was spent on overtime for the state police to travel.
Gov. John Bel Edwards will lead a group from Louisiana on a trip to Rome to discuss human trafficking in the state.
Edwards and other state leaders, including Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of Louisiana State Police, will leave for Rome on Friday. The Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy will also travel with the governor. Edwards and his wife, Donna, have been invited to a special meeting with Pope Francis to discuss further cooperation between churches and the state to combat human trafficking.
According to the governor's office, Edwards is paying for the trip for he and his wife. Louisiana State Police reported Metanoia, Inc. is paying for Edmonson's trip and Edmonson is paying for his wife. Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, and Senate President John Alario Jr., R-Westwego, will also be a part of the trip. Alario said he will be paying for the trip using money leftover in his campaign account. John says he will be mostly financing the trip with personal funds, as well as some campaign money. His wife's expenses will be paid for entirely with personal funds.
Back in April, the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy broke ground on a shelter, called Metanoia House, for juvenile victims of human trafficking. The shelter has established a close relationship with local law enforcement agencies to identify victims and provide them with a nurturing environment with individual support. Edwards and his wife attended the groundbreaking ceremony and support the shelter's mission.
According to national statistics, the average age of a human trafficking victim is only 13 years old. The corridor between Houston and New Orleans has become one of the worst areas in the country for human trafficking problems. Louisiana has been recognized as the leading state in the country for the fight against human trafficking.
State police said they've worked nearly 100 human trafficking cases since 2014, including more than 30 cases involving minors.
"One of the greatest honors of a Catholic and Christian is to meet the Holy Father. I am humbled by this opportunity, and I am looking forward to discussing the very real threat that human trafficking imposes on Louisiana. Col. Edmonson and the Louisiana State Police have done a tremendous job investigating instances of human trafficking, but our work is nowhere near complete. This is an incredible opportunity for Louisiana to learn about the partnerships that are available to assist victims of human trafficking, and I know it'll be a benefit to our state," said Edwards.
"Even if one life is saved in our mission to end human trafficking, it's worth the effort. We began this process in the previous administration and had tremendous success. Gov. Edwards is equally committed to putting an end to human trafficking, and we want to give these young women the opportunity to truly succeed," said Edmonson.
While on the trip, Edwards and the First Lady will visit the North American College, where a group of students from Louisiana are currently studying.
Italian Consolata Sister Eugenia Bonetti has been a leader in the Catholic church fighting human trafficking and is assisting with the trip. Her network extends to 30 different countries and works in prevention, rehabilitation, and protection of the human trafficking victims and their families, as well as the reintegration of victims back into society.