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New Jersey: Inmates Will Get Care for Hepatitis

October 31, 2002

This article is part of The Body PRO's archive. Because it contains information that may no longer be accurate, this article should only be considered a historical document.

New Jersey, the only major state not currently treating prisoners for hepatitis C, announced Wednesday that it would cover the cost of treating the disease. Under a new agreement with prison medical provider Correctional Medical Services, the state will assume the costs of the expensive treatment beginning Nov. 1, according to state Treasury Department spokesperson Ralph Siegel.

"The state will pay for medicine, test costs and any necessity for additional staff," Siegel said in announcing the agreement, which extends the CMS contract with the state until Aug. 31, 2003. The money for hepatitis C treatment will be in addition to the millions of dollars the state pays CMS. It was unclear, Siegel said, how much extra money the state would need to spend. Other state corrections departments are finding it can cost $15,000 to $25,000 per hepatitis C-infected inmate to cover testing, monitoring and treatment. The drugs cure about half of treated patients, with viral levels dropping to undetectable levels and remaining there.

New Jersey's current contract with CMS expires today, and the state had received no bids it considered acceptable for a new contract. CMS had asked for an increase that would have raised the cost of prison health care by 30 percent to more than $100 million annually, but it said the state would have to pay extra for hepatitis C care. The state rejected that proposal, arguing that hepatitis C care should have always been covered under the contract. Under the 10-month extension, Siegel said, CMS will receive a 14.7 percent increase.

Like other states, New Jersey is facing epidemic levels of hepatitis C infection among inmates. Nationally, 20-30 percent of prisoners are infected with the blood-borne virus. In Georgia, the annual budget for hepatitis C treatment could eventually approach $5 million, said Joseph Paris, the state's prison medical director.

"We need federal assistance," said Reginald Wilkinson, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. "This is not just a prison problem."

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Adapted from:
Philadelphia Inquirer
10.31.02; Mark Fazlollah; Jennifer Lin

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.


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