State Department of Health officials from both Indiana and Illinois were in attendance on last Thursday, for a blessing and open house for a first-of-its-kind clinic in the state that aims to fill an urgent need to test and treat patients for hepatitis C and HIV. The Multi-Specialty Hepatitis C and HIV Clinic is located on the first floor of Franciscan Health Hammond at 5454 Hohman Ave., and will serve both the Northwest Indiana and South Suburban Chicago communities. In the beginning, providers at the clinic will offer services from 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays. There will also be days available for free hepatitis C screenings with linkage to care support services. The screening and linkage to care portions of this effort are supported by the FOCUS (Frontlines of Communities in the United States) program of Gilead Sciences. Since the initial FOCUS grant award in July 2016, the program has screened more than 20,000 Franciscan patients and community members for hepatitis C in South Suburban Chicago and Northern Indiana, an increase of 145 percent. Through those enhanced screening efforts, 490 people living with chronic hepatitis C have been identified. Still, providing patients with additional support and linking them to care has been challenging until now.
A key innovation in the clinic is a partnership with Specialty Pharmacy to offer support in prescribing, preauthorization and pricing. Patients will be able to receive 340B pricing on prescription medications. In the 340B program, vulnerable or uninsured patients receive steep discounts on medicines from manufacturers as a condition of their drugs being covered by Medicaid. Programming in the future will provide further treatment and support for uninsured or underinsured patients. The clinic is also working with the hospital’s Charity Care department and other community agencies, such as the Aliveness Project, to secure additional resources for those who need them. Anyone interested in scheduling a screening or seeking support services or treatment can call the Multi-Specialty Hepatitis C and HIV Clinic at (219) 852-1563.