Counties fighting problematic rise of Hep C in Front Range

In just a years' time, the Hep C rate in Front Range counties has jumped 65 percent.

Front Range Counties saw a 65 percent increase in Hepatitis-C in people ages 21-30 from 2015-2016.
That includes a 32-percent increase in Jefferson County.

The Jefferson County Public Health Department is working on bringing the numbers down - and they are doing it by being judgment free.

Points West is a program that allows people who use drugs to exchange old syringes for new ones.

Chris Hammond, a nurse with the Jeffco Public Health Department says it’s a harm reduction program. The health department says it isn't promoting drug use, but trying to prevent diseases from spreading.

Hepatitis-C is a disease that attacks the liver and it’s on the rise among people 21 to 30 years old. Nurses at JeffCo Public Health say the can see how Hep-C is contracted the most among those that participate in the program.

“The majority of those who use our services are injecting drugs of choice,” Hammond says.

Since Hepatitis-C can be easily transmitted through old needles, the program encourages people who use drugs not to share and to get a new syringe after each use.

“This is judgment-free; we know you are going to use let's help you use in the safest way possible and lets keeps those communicable diseases from spreading,” says Hammond.

The nurses also provide participants with condoms, hand wipes, and also give Narcan for those who may be around people using opioids.

Points West started with about 40 participants and now almost two years later, nearly 300 are using the program.

Nurses say every case is different depending on the person's use.

“If they want to come five times in a week they can if they want to come once a month that's fine too,” Hammond says.

The program also provides free STD testing for its participants.

While the main goal of the program is disease prevention, nurses will sometimes give out referrals to drug treatment programs, but ultimately it's up to the participant.

Find out more about the program at this link.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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