START Treatment & Recovery Centers has launched a collaboration with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to treat Hepatitis B and C (HCV) in patients with opioid use disorders on methadone. HCV affects nearly five million people in the United States and is a major cause of chronic liver disease, leading to liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, liver cancer, disability and death. People with opioid use disorders, specifically injection drug users, have the highest prevalence of HCV, but only a small minority receive treatment due to issues in conventional healthcare settings that include stigma and discrimination.
The collaboration, entitled Improving Hepatitis B and C Care Cascades; Focus on Increased Testing and Diagnosis, is funded by a supplemental grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provided to the NYC DOHMH and awarded to START. START is currently treating patients with opioid use disorders who receive methadone and have HCV.
Patients are screened for HCV and treated in-house by START addiction medicine specialists and primary care doctors, and provided with care either on-site, via referral to an external provider or via telemedicine in collaboration with the State University of New York at Buffalo. START’s community-based treatment programs provide comprehensive medical and behavioral health, as well as social services.
“Patients with opioid use disorders on methadone rarely receive treatment for HCV despite an estimated 60% prevalence and increasing incidence,” says START CEO Lawrence S. Brown, Jr., MD, MPH, FACP, DFASAM. “HCV used to be a disease of management, but we now have access to a wonder drug that cures patients in eight to 12 weeks.
“Opioid treatment programs that dispense methadone are ideal sites for treating HCV because they attract rigorous attendance among patients,” he continues. “We’ve found that the combination of telemedicine and connecting patients to offsite specialists has proven very effective in treating vulnerable populations. We’re proud to be leading the way with a treatment protocol that will save lives.”
START’s program will be spearheaded by its Chief Medical Officer Daanish Shaikh, MD, ABPM, ABFM, AAMRO, FASAM, and Dr. Alvin Chu, Associate Director of Funded Projects.
START has treated over 50,000 New Yorkers throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan since it was founded in 1969. Its goal is to provide the highest quality of compassionate, comprehensive, evidence-based healthcare and social services; education of the public concerning maintenance of healthy lifestyles; and cutting-edge behavioral, biomedical and healthcare services research.
Its community-based treatment programs for adults and adolescents use individual and group counseling with medical and behavioral health professionals to treat patients; some of its clinics offer short-term, outpatient detoxification and a drug-free chemical dependency program for other non-opiate addictions. Its outpatient services and programs for people seeking quality treatment for drug addiction and rehabilitation include comprehensive medical care and specialized HIV services; behavioral health and vocational services; and medical case management.
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For more information, visit www.startny.org.