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Hudson Headwaters Launches Hepatitis C Treatment Pilot Program

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Grant-funded effort aims to increase treatment compliance in vulnerable populations

Funded by a grant from the New York State Health Foundation, Hudson Headwaters Health Network is launching a yearlong pilot program to test for the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) among individuals in its North Country service area and provide necessary treatment in the primary care setting. The program applies training, technology and guidance from a team at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

The program is intended to identify patients infected with HCV and help those patients overcome traditional barriers to HCV treatment. Current medications to treat HCV are generally well tolerated, curative and routinely covered by insurance.

“In the past, treatment for Hepatitis C had many side effects, but this is no longer the case. Now people often have no trouble sticking to the treatment plan,” said Hudson Headwaters chief executive officer Tucker Slingerland, M.D. “New York State has a goal of eliminating HCV. The first step is to ensure that people who have the virus complete the treatment plan. That’s especially important in our area, where the opioid crisis and related needle-sharing are leading to HCV infection in people younger than we normally expect to see.”

Hudson Headwaters will join more than 1,800 healthcare providers worldwide in using the Psychosocial Readiness Evaluation and Preparation for Hepatitis C Treatment (PREP-C) assessment tool developed by Jeffrey J. Weiss, Ph.D., MS and his team at the Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine to help set up individuals with HCV for success.

“This is a unique urban-rural exchange of knowledge. People face different challenges in the city and in the areas we serve. We’re now able to offer a treatment cure for HCV that was previously very hard to obtain for many of our patients. We’re excited to help our patients through this program and we’re happy that we can contribute to ongoing research at the Icahn School through our experiences,” Slingerland said.

Provider and staff education, as well as the coordination of care services, will be supported by a $150,000 grant from the New York State Health Foundation.

Through its Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, Hudson Headwaters already provides rapid dry blood spot testing to diagnose HCV.

About HCV: This viral infection is transmitted through contaminated blood. Usually a “silent” disease for many years, it can progress undetected for decades. Left untreated, HCV causes liver damage and can lead to liver failure and liver cancer. It is most common in people: born between 1945 and 1965, people who have injected or inhaled illicit drugs, have HIV/AIDS, have gotten tattoos in unsanitary conditions, have spent time in prison and healthcare workers.