NYC Health + Hospitals on July 18th announced that it has expanded its Hepatitis C navigator program from six to nine hospitals, allowing the health system to test more patients, connect them to lifesaving treatment, and support them until they are cured. The three new sites are NYC Health+Hospitals/Lincoln, Metropolitan, and Woodhull, complementing the six existing sites: NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, Elmhurst, Jacobi, Kings County, South Brooklyn Health, and Gotham Health/Gouverneur.
The program treats all patients with Hepatitis C, including three populations that are disproportionately affected: people with a substance use disorder diagnosis, people who are incarcerated or recently released from incarceration, and people living with HIV.
Today treatment advances can cure Hepatitis C in as little as 8 to 12 weeks. Across New York City newly reported cases of Hepatitis C have been decreasing since 2012 with 4,163 cases reported in 2019; 2,791 cases reported in 2020; and 2,832 cases reported in 2021. To date NYC Health + Hospitals has treated and cured over 2,000 patients with Hepatitis C.
“Our primary goal is to identify all our patients with Hepatitis C and connect them to care and treatment. To do this we have to overcome the stigma that’s attached to this disease and support our patients through a treatment course and eventually a cure,” said Emma Kaplan-Lewis, MD, HIV Clinical Quality Director, Office of Population Health, NYC Health + Hospitals. “Our Navigators can answer patients’ questions and guide them through treatment, offering multiple supports along the way.”
“As a Hepatitis C Navigator, it’s my job to ensure that a patient finishes their course of treatment, clears the virus, and achieves a cure,” said Joelle R. Bodeta, Hepatitis Patient Navigator at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst. “Sometimes during treatment, life can get in the way for our patients, and it’s my job to provide the support they need to finish treatment.”
Screening for Hepatitis C is essential to get patients into care. The navigation program is a key component of this work and is available across NYC Health + Hospitals. Within the health system’s electronic medical record reminders have been instituted to support clinical teams identify individuals eligible for screening. Adults aged 18 to 79 should have a Hepatitis C test at least once, and individuals at higher risk should receive more frequent screening. To be screened for Hepatitis C, patients should call 844-NYC 4NYC and schedule an appointment.
At NYC Health + Hospital facilities all first-line treatment options, called direct-acting antivirals (DAA) regimens, are available to treat patients diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Treatments are in swallowable pill form, and the treatment course is 8 to 12 weeks in duration, at which point greater than 95% of patients are cured of the disease. The treatment is tailored to the patient and we work with our patients to identify what treatment options work best for them. Generally, the cost of treatment is covered by insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid. NYC Health + Hospitals treats all patients regardless of their ability to pay.
The health system estimates that 1,500 patients at NYC Health + Hospitals today have Hepatitis C infection that is not yet cured. The navigation program is designed to support these individuals, and any newly diagnosed patients, with information on Hepatitis, connection to support services and resources, assistance addressing individual barriers to treatment, and support preventing reinfection. From the time a patient is diagnosed, the Navigators are there to support the patient. With an expanded navigation program and increased emphasis on Hepatitis C screening, ending the Hepatitis C epidemic in NYC is finally an achievable goal.
Patients new to NYC Health + Hospitals who wish to be screened or receive treatment should call 844-NYC-4NYC.