BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The New York state Department of Health has awarded $1 million in public funds to two contractors as part of a two-year sex worker health care pilot program.

Republican state Assemblyman David DiPietro believes the program potentially encourages human trafficking and sets back the women's equality movement.

"It totally dehumanizes women," DiPietro said. "They talk about being the empowerment of women. It's the exact opposite. This puts women on a second class scale."

Furthermore, DiPietro believes the program is just the beginning. Over the past several sessions, lawmakers in favor of decriminalizing sex work have argued, among other things, it would free up the criminal justice system, make things safer for those who chose to work in the industry and allow them better access to things like health care.

The assemblyman believes this session, even past decriminalization, his colleagues will look to legalization.

"This is wrong in every respect," DiPietro said. "There is no moral value here. The moral standards have been totally corrupted by these people."

The funding will go to Callen-Lorde in New York City and Buffalo-based Evergreen Health, two clinics that focus on underserved populations including the LBGTQ+ community. DiPietro's Assembly district includes parts of southern Erie County but he says the program will affect his constituents.

"I'm only 15 miles away and there's two places in East Aurora," he said. One is a historical landmark where they've had problems with prostitutes coming in and infiltrating their customers."

Finally, the assemblymember doesn't believe it's fair to offer sex workers free health and dental care when the population-at-large doesn't have the same opportunity.

He said he and others in his conference will oppose it but they'll need collaboration across the aisle.

"We're in the super minority, so we have to go to Democrats and hopefully get some Democrats to go against their party and not sit on their hands because they don't want to be ostracized out of their party by going against it," DiPietro said.

The health department said it remains committed to providing support and services to all New Yorkers without stigma. It said individuals participating in the program often experience discrimination, violence and threats to their emotional well-being and are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted disease yet lack access to quality routine screening.

The DOH calls the program critical and will keep both participants and other New Yorkers safe. Evergreen Health did communicate with us but said it would not be able to accommodate our request for comment Wednesday.