CA Governor’s new budget increases investment in expanding hepatitis C treatment


ANNE DONNELLY, adonnelly AT projectinform DOT org, (415) 640-6103
ANDREW REYNOLDS areynolds AT projectinform DOT org, (415) 312-3445

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Project Inform and the California Hepatitis Alliance (CalHEP), a group of over 100 organizations fighting viral hepatitis, fully support Governor Brown’s 2018-2019 budget proposal to fund the lifting of hepatitis C (HCV) treatment restrictions in Medi-Cal and to treat persons with hepatitis C in prisons. Experts and advocates applaud Brown’s proposed $70.4 million increase for HCV treatment in Medi-Cal and $105.8 million increase in funding to treat persons in California prisons. These proposals are a significant step towards the goal of eliminating HCV in California, and demonstrate a strong commitment from the Governor to address this epidemic that has caused much suffering for so many people in our state.

“Removing all fibrosis restrictions for people with hepatitis C who depend on Medi-Cal eliminates barriers and aligns California’s treatment policy with the national guidelines for HCV treatment,” stated Anne Donnelly, Director of Health Care Policy for Project Inform. “New hepatitis C treatments cure over 95% of people who take them, have few side effects, and are more affordable than ever: A person on Medi-Cal can be cured in as little as 8 weeks for a cost of about $20,000, preventing serious liver damage that can lead to longer term consequences like liver cancer, end-stage liver disease or death. This investment in hepatitis C treatment is fiscally sound and will greatly improve the lives and health of some of the most vulnerable Californians.”

Project Inform and CalHEP also fully support the expansion of HCV treatment to all infected prisoners in California state prison. There are over 22,000 inmates living with hepatitis C. “Expanding treatment in a prison setting is good policy for both people in prison and the community. Curing inmates reduces long-term medical costs by preventing advanced liver disease and liver-related deaths, as well as reducing the risk of transmission,” said Andrew Reynolds, Hepatitis C and Harm Reduction Manager for Project Inform and co-chair of CalHEP. “And it benefits the community, too. Contrary to popular belief, most people in prison get released back to the community. By curing them inside, we reduce health care costs outside while also preventing transmission. Good prison health is good public health.”

Project Inform and CalHEP are advocating for an additional $6.6 million dollars a year to increase the number of people tested and linked to quality HCV care, with an emphasis on those at greatest risk of transmitting the disease to others. High-risk groups such as people who inject drugs, homeless persons, and young people who use drugs in both urban and rural settings are often disconnected from the health care system and need the assistance of a case worker, or “navigator” to find, enter and stay in care and treatment. This investment would continue and expand the very successful pilot HCV linkage projects funded in FY 2015-16 and help the most vulnerable patients benefit from the treatment expansion proposed in the Governor’s budget.

Project Inform, along with its partners in the California Hepatitis Alliance, continue to advocate for appropriate funding in the FY 2018-2019 budget to support hepatitis C prevention, testing, linkage to care and treatment as well as investments in prevention, treatment and care of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

Project Inform is a nonprofit education and advocacy organization that believes it is possible to create the first generation free of HIV and hepatitis C within the next decade. To achieve that dream, we focus our work in four areas: drug development, bio-medical prevention, education, and health care access.

CalHEP is an alliance of more than 100 organizations dedicated to reducing the scope and consequences of the hepatitis B and C epidemics in California, which disproportionately affect California’s ethnic communities and the socioeconomically underserved. CalHEP includes among its membership public health departments, community-based organizations, drug treatment programs, clinics and health care agencies, county hepatitis task forces, and others committed to eliminating viral hepatitis. CalHEP’s work focuses on advocating for sound policies, promoting evidence-based and culturally competent education, and broadening access to services.

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