Troubling statistics on the increase and severity of hepatitis C infections, often the result of drug users sharing needles, reveal a significant threat to Maryland’s health care system and the overall well-being of our communities.
Voices of Hope, a nonprofit community-based recovery organization serving Harford and Cecil counties, is tackling this problem head-on with its new, free hepatitis C testing program.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a blood-borne viral liver infection that can lead to acute chronic infections like cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure and, if untreated, death. In 2020, Maryland had the third highest increase of HCV of any state in America.
The good news is that there are safe and effective treatments and cures for Hep C. Here’s how it works at Voices of Hope (VoH).Any person can come to VoH’s recovery center in either Aberdeen or Elkton. After signing a consent form, VoH staff will administer a tiny finger prick and then test the drop of blood for the virus. It only takes twenty minutes to get the result. If the test is negative (a good thing!), there is no Hep C.
If the test result is positive (person has Hep C), VoH staff will coordinate treatment with the West Cecil Health Center in Conowingo. VoH also participates in the Johns Hopkins Hospital’s ACCESS Telehealth treatment program. VoH staff can link the participant on a screen to a doctor at Johns Hopkins who can issue a prescription for treatment medicine. Johns Hopkins ACCESS Telehealth is limited to some specific insurance plans. VoH staff will work diligently to help people testing positive get treatment.
“We are grateful and proud that Voices of Hope can expand our life-saving services to include Hep C testing and follow-up support,” said Jennifer Tuerke, VoH’s Executive Director. “Our partnerships with West Cecil Health Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital strengthens our ability to help people and families with substance use disorder get started on their paths to recovery.”
This free testing is available Monday-Fridays and on weekends. For more information, call VoH at 443-993-7055.