260068 "It's easier to do stuff that's hard when you've got people to back you:" Hepatitis C Peer Education & Support in an Opioid Treatment Program

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 11:30 AM - 11:50 AM

Robert Roose, MD, MPH , Division of Substance Abuse, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY
Irene Soloway, PA , Division of Substance Abuse, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY
Lauren Cockerham-Colas, MPH , Division of Substance Abuse, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY
Abigail Batchelder, MPH, MA , Division of Substance Abuse, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY
Alain Litwin, MD, MPH, MS , Division of Substance Abuse, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY
Issues: Hepatitis C (HCV) is the most prevalent chronic disease among injection drug users, yet relatively few have been treated. Co-morbid psychiatric illness, fragmentation of care, low social support, and concerns about adverse effects are significant barriers to evaluation and treatment. Integrating HCV treatment into opioid treatment programs is an effective way to engage current or former drug users in care. Utilizing peer education and support may reduce barriers to treatment and facilitate engagement with medical care. Description: We established a formal HCV Peer Education & Support Program in our opioid treatment programs in the Bronx to enhance existing on-site treatment of HCV. All of our HCV peer educators (25) have been patients in our opioid treatment programs, received treatment for HCV, completed a formal educational curriculum and receive ongoing education and supervision. Peer educators provide direct patient support, escort patients to off-site liver biopsies and other procedures, co-facilitate support and treatment groups, conduct outreach, and participate in advocacy efforts. Lessons Learned: Case vignettes illustrate ways in which peer involvement increases on-site engagement with HCV care, including evaluation and treatment. Patients reported having less fear about initiating treatment, more motivation to continue treatment, and feeling supported by others. Peer involvement mitigates patient concerns about HCV and its treatment, and empowers both peer educators and patients. Recommendations: Peer education and support programs are essential elements of integrating HCV care in opioid treatment programs. This innovative peer program effectively engages patients and may be a model of care for other chronic diseases.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Provision of health care to the public

Learning Objectives:
1. Explain potential benefits of incorporating peer support into HCV treatment. 2. Identify key components for effective integration of peer program into medical care. 3. Discuss potential applications of peer program model for other chronic diseases.

Keywords: Peer Education, Hepatitis C

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been co-investigator on multiple grants focusing on the integration of medical care, including treatment for Hepatitis C, and substance abuse treatment. Among my scientific interests is the development and evaluation of innovative models of care to improve outcomes for substance users, including group treatment and peer programs. As Assistant Professor and Medical Director, I also supervise the treatment of more than 1000 individuals, and educate students, residents, and fellows in addiction medicine.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.