Hoosiers will have increased access to hepatitis C testing, care coordination and support across the state as the result of funding from the Indiana Department of Health’s Health Issues and Challenges grant program.
The Damien Center and the Health Foundation of Greater Indianapolis are using the nearly $6.6 million granted to the Health Foundation in June 2022 to launch the Connect to Cure initiative, which will involve hiring hepatitis C care coordinators, testers and peer support specialists who will staff 19 regional sites across the state. Individuals can visit one of the locations or utilize telehealth services to get prevention and care services, including case management, testing, assistance with insurance enrollment, and linkage to care.
The Health Issues and Challenges program was established by the Indiana General Assembly in 2021 with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. Nearly $45 million has been awarded to more than 180 organizations to address a range of health issues, including obesity, tobacco prevention and cessation, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular health, lead poisoning, diabetes, and food insecurity, as well as to promote community health workers and community paramedicine.
“Hepatitis C is often an invisible infection until symptoms emerge and life-changing damage has occurred,” said State Health Commissioner Lindsay Weaver, M.D., FACEP. “By increasing opportunities for testing and treatment, we can help Hoosiers know their status sooner and get connected with the resources that can lead to a cure. Initiatives like Connect to Cure are why Indiana has been ranked in the top six states most likely to end hepatitis C by 2030, and this would not be possible without our lawmakers who made this funding available and our partners who remain committed to providing Hoosiers the resources they need to improve their health.”
Hepatitis Cis a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and is spread through contact with blood from an infected person. Most people who contract the virus develop a long-term, chronic infection that damages the liver and can lead to serious, even life-threatening health problems like cirrhosis and liver cancer. There is no vaccine for HCV, but medications can cure the infection in eight to 12 weeks.
Nationally, an estimated 2.4 million people are living with an HCV infection, yet more than half are unaware they are carrying the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An estimated 69,000 people in Indiana age 18 and older are living with the virus.
The CDC recommends that all adults be tested for HCV at least once in a lifetime and that all women be tested for HCV during each pregnancy. Additional testing may be recommended for individuals with certain medical conditions or other behavioral risk factors.
Media with questions about Connect to Cure can contact Myranda Annakin at [email protected]
For more information about the Health Issues and Challenges program, contact IDOH at [email protected].