CHILLICOTHE, OH (WCMH) — A community health center said it’s seeing an overwhelming number of cases of Hepatitis-C.
Hopewell Health Center in Chillicothe said 70% of about 500 patients in their Vivitrol program have tested positive for the contagious liver disease.
“It’s definitely from sharing needles,” said behavioral health clinician Kylie Lemaster.
Lemaster is also the coordinator of the Vivitrol program at Hopewell. She said she’s alarmed by the large number of patients, looking to recover from their opiate addiction, who are testing positive for the blood-borne virus.
“It’s really concerning especially when this person is coming in, ready to address their disease and put all the work into it and then its another barrier that they have to face when they have decided to stop using drugs,” she said.
There is a cure for Hepatitis-C, but it’s expensive. Lemaster said treatment can cost around $80,000.
Family nurse practitioner Jim Conkle said many patients don’t show symptoms of the disease, which can eventually lead to liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.
“Many of them know they’ve already been exposed to hepatitis, but the desire and the drive for the opiate is so strong that many times they don’t see that as a imposing upon their health,” he said.
Lemaster and Conkle said education and prevention are key, but getting addicts opiate-free is just as important.
“By doing that, then it decreases the number of patients that are out on the street and those that are sharing needles,” said Conkle.
Hopewell and the Heroin Partnership Project are working together to find a solution to this Hepatitis-C increase. One of the options they’re exploring is creating a community needle exchange program.
Hepatitis-C Cases in Ross County (via Ross Co. Health District)
- 2013: 151
- 2014: 234
- 2015: 281
- 2016: 273
- 2017: 179 (end of September)