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Kentucky Organizations Get $1 Million To Fight Hepatitis C

Mary Meehan
Ohio Valley Resource

Eight Kentucky-based organizations will share a $1.05 million grant to fight hepatitis C infections spread by the opioid crisis.

Kentucky’s grant is part of a $5.3 million regional grant from Gilead Sciences, a for-profit biopharmaceutical company based in California. Organizations can use the money to provide new services or educate communities on ways to fight infection. Of more than 120 applicants, Gilead picked 44 projects to receive a grant.

Kentucky’s share will be split among these organizations:

Appalachian Regional Healthcare

AVOL Kentucky

Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition

Madison County Health Department

Muhlenberg County Health Department

Whitley County Health Department

Norton Healthcare

University of Louisville research foundation

Michelle Rose, Norton Healthcare’s population health manager, said the health system will get $100,000 in grant funds to study syringe needle exchange sites in Kentucky.

“In the background of how SSP’s [Syringe Service Programs] work in rural areas, there’s very little research on it,” Rose said. “This really gives us a chance to take a look at a subject in a subject area that hasn’t been really well explored, and to figure out next best steps, broader solutions – and to engage the community in that piece.”

Around 43,000 people in Kentucky have hepatitis C, and nearly 300 Kentuckians died of the disease in 2016 according to data from Gilead and Emory University. A 2018 report from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention found many of the nation’s new infections were  caused by injection drug use fueled by the nation’s opioid crisis. That’s part of why Gilead’s five-year initiative to fight hepatitis C, led by the nonprofit HepConnect organization the company started in March, targets Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Gilead also announced it would give $11.3 million to fight hepatitis C in an announcement this April.

Arun Skaria, the Director for Corporate Contributions at Gilead Sciences, said Tuesday’s grant pushes GIlead’s mission to prevent disease while helping local organizations.

“We want to support organizations that have been working on the ground doing this,” Skaria said. ”Our resources are hopefully a catalyst so that they can grow that work and ultimately sustain that work.”

Each organization will use the grant money over an 18-month period. 

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