National, State, and Local Experts weigh in on Health Centers’ role in combatting HCV and the Opioid Epidemic
Across the country, health centers are supporting varying degrees of hepatitis C virus (HCV) screening, testing, linkage to care, and treatment programming. As rates of injection drug use continue to increase in light of the ongoing opioid epidemic, rates of HCV infection have followed suit. In honor of Hepatitis Awareness Month, the National Nurse-Led Care Consortium (NNCC) hosted a webinar series to inform health centers on best practices for addressing these intersecting issues.
The Hepatitis Awareness Month webinar series contained three parts, each designed with a national, state, and local expert to reflect the multidimensional natures of the HCV and opioid epidemics. We as an organization are proud to have had representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, and NASTAD, as well as participants from 40 states and the District of Columbia.
The first session included discussion of national trends and changes in HCV infection rates and their relationship to the opioid epidemic, presented by Chris Taylor, the Senior Director of Hepatitis at NASTAD. With the expertise of Julie Baker, the Director of Preventive Services from the Iowa Primary Care Association, participants also examined data related to HCV rates, testing, and treatment in the era of the opioid epidemic. Katie Huynh, a primary care provider at PHMC Care Clinic in Philadelphia, discussed successes and challenges in optimizing HCV programming at health centers. You can view Part 1 here.
During Part 2, Dr. Judith Steinberg, the Chief Medical Officer for the Bureau of Primary Health Care at HRSA, provided a national perspective on the role of health centers in testing and treating for HCV. Discussion included an analysis of policy changes to HCV treatment standards in Pennsylvania, as well as best practices for onboarding universal screening practices at health centers. You can view Part 2 here.
In the final webinar of the Hepatitis Awareness Month series, Corinna Dan, Viral Hepatitis Policy Advisor for the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, provided information about the National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan. In addition, a Behavioral Health Specialist discussed strategies for behavioral health integration into primary care as a means of caring for patients with substance use disorder. Finally, Dr. Michael Halpern, a Physician/Researcher at Temple University, gave an overview of analyzing the cost-benefit of HCV treatment practices in CHCs. You can view Part 3 here.
As community health centers remain on the forefront to eliminate HCV infection and respond to the opioid epidemic, they must be armed with resources and training on best practices for testing, linkage to care and treatment. In maintaining strong partnerships to create diversified programming, NNCC supports the national effort to help health centers expand their infrastructure to promote the elimination of HCV and combat the opioid epidemic.
NNCC is a membership organization whose mission is to advance nurse-led health care through policy, consultation, and programs to reduce health disparities and meet people’s primary care and wellness needs. Consultation includes training and technical assistance for Community Health Centers (CHCs) through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). A priority of this work is improving health outcomes for patients with Hepatitis C, an issue that has becoming more pressing as opioid and injection drug use increase.
Read about @NurseLedCare's efforts in combatting HCV and the opioid epidemic this past #HepatitisAwarenessMonth -via @HHSgov https://go.usa.gov/xUzuY