Public health officials in New York State have launched a new learning collaborative aiming to integrate Hepatitis C testing and treatment into Opioid Treatment Programs.
One of the ATTC Network's products, Guide to Integrating HCV Services into Opioid Treatment Programs, played a key role in helping launch the collaborative.
Here's our Q&A with Mehvish Bhatti, project coordinator at the New York State Department of Health's Bureau of Hepatitis Health Care, on how the program started, and how the ATTC Network was able to help.
A. The New York State (NYS) Hepatitis C Learning Collaborative is a two-year initiative designed to build the capacity of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment programs to provide on-site HCV testing and linkage to care activities for clients living with hepatitis C. This will be accomplished through completion of an organizational readiness assessment to identify areas for tailored technical assistance and additional training that will be supplemented by monthly collaborative calls to discuss challenges, identify solutions, and share best practices and resources. Six SUD treatment programs have been selected to participate in the Collaborative. Each program will receive $50,000 each year for two years. The Collaborative began on April 1, 2022 and will end March 31, 2024.
Q. Why is the Learning Collaborative so important?
A. Hepatitis C is a major public health problem in the United States. Many people living with hepatitis C do not know their status. Hepatitis C can be cured. Many people with hepatitis C also have co-occurring SUDs. Among new hepatitis C cases reported in 2019, in NYS (excluding NYC) 72% of those with known risk factors reported injection drug use as a risk. The NYS Hepatitis C Elimination Plan identified people who use drugs and substance use disorder treatment programs as priority populations and settings in the work towards eliminating hepatitis C in NYS by 2030. Providing services to thousands of individuals in NYS each year, substance use disorder treatment programs are particularly well positioned to play an important role in eliminating HCV. A 2018 survey of the hepatitis C infrastructure in NYS SUD treatment programs found 60% of SUD treatment programs do not provide HCV testing onsite and only 8% offer HCV treatment onsite. This Collaborative will help prepare these programs to screen and diagnose people for hepatitis C and link them to curative treatment.
Q. Your office found the ATTC Network's Guide to Integrating HCV Services into Opioid Treatment Programs useful. How are you using that resource in this new venture?
A. The Guide to Integrating HCV Services into Opioid Treatment Programs provided us with helpful information that we used as a foundation for the resources created for the Collaborative. It served as a guide for the Organizational Readiness Assessment created to assess the readiness of the SUD treatment programs to integrate hepatitis C services. Furthermore, the components in the guide provided a strong foundation for us and will serve as a resource when providing technical assistance to the programs in the Collaborative. This guide will also be shared with our programs so they can use it as a resource when needed.
Q. Is this the first time NYSDOH has used an ATTC product? If so, how did you find it? If not, what other resources has ATTC provided that you found useful in your efforts?
A. ATTC has several useful Hepatitis C resources that have been used by NYSDOH staff and shared with community partners. The Motivational Interviewing to Address Hepatitis C resource was shared with trainers and curricular developers who are delivering Motivational Interviewing training for NYSDOH funded programs. HCV Snapshot: An Introduction to Hepatitis C for Health Care Professionals was disseminated by the NYS Technical Assistance Center for State Viral Hepatitis Coordinators – a 2007- 2015 CDC-funded project. SAMHSA’s TIP #53: Addressing Viral Hepatitis in People with Substance Use Disorders is a foundational document for working with SUD treatment programs and will be used for the Collaborative.
Prior to joining the NYSDOH, Mehvish was the Public Health Planner at the Albany County Department of Health, Division of Emergency Preparedness. She has a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Albany.