Imagine Hope Quarterly Report
Updated: 2 days ago
January - March 2022
Measuring Success at Aspire
"As of this quarter, I have been able to confirm that 8 clients that I diagnosed chronically infected with HCV - clients that I was able to help navigate through the linkage continuum - have been cured."
Theresha Threadcraft, RN works closely with Aspire co-workers to engage clients in testing for HIV and HCV. “Everyone supports the testing program," says Theresha. "They know how important it is for clients to know their status and receive any necessary treatment.”
This quarter, Theresha provided 82 clients – primarily from the crisis unit and the MAT clinic – with HIV and hepatitis C testing. Of those tested for HCV, 4 were confirmed HCV/RNA-positive (chronically infected with HCV) and in need of medical treatment.
In addition to screening, Theresha provides linkage to clients in need of hepatitis C care. In 2019, when she began testing for HCV, she learned all she could about what treatment was available in Albany - and found that gastroenterology services were available to clients with little or no resources. "From there, everything started falling into place.”
“When a client is confirmed RNA-positive I help them fill out the financial assistance application. Once they qualify, the cost of treatment is usually covered. In the beginning, I contacted the pharmaceutical company to arrange for medication through their patient assistance program; now the Nurse Practitioner at the provider does that. But I still monitor each request for medication. Recently the medication for two clients didn’t arrive. When I followed up, I found out the pharmaceutical company needed additional documentation, so I sent it to them and the meds arrived safely.”
“This work gives me joy,” says Theresha. “Here’s how I measure success: this quarter, I was able to get one newly diagnosed HCV-positive client into treatment, another that I had already linked began taking medication, and a third client that I linked to care completed their medication. Of the clients whose linkage I have navigated, to date, I have been able to confirm that 8 clients - clients who were chronically infected with HCV - have been cured. One of those individuals had been infected for many years and expected to die from it. That individual is now in recovery from substance use and free of hepatitis C.”
Making a Difference in North Georgia
I have a true belief that if we can help one person - I don't care if there's 300 that come through the door - if we help one person save themselves, that one person will make a difference. They could save their whole family.”
In the mountains of north Georgia, COVID has changed patterns of drug use according to Jeanette Loudermilk of The Pittard Clinic, an MAT provider in Toccoa, Georgia. “Prior to COVID we were seeing methamphetamine and opiate use and a little bit of heroin. Now we’re seeing lots of fentanyl mixed with other drugs like heroin and even marijuana. It’s really scary because fentanyl interferes with methadone so a lot of patients are dropping out of treatment because we can’t get the withdrawal under control.”
Despite the challenges, Jeanette’s commitment hasn't wavered. “I am definitely 100% committed. Addiction is a is a horrible disease. It affects so many generations - it robs children of their parents and parents of their children. It destroys people mentally, it takes a toll on the body - and it puts them at risk for HIV and hepatitis C. So I have a lot of passion for this job. I have a lot of empathy for the people that we serve and for their families. We do what we can do to help people restore a semblance of their life - but the real hard work is up to them."
"We live in a very close knit community with a lot of bias against addiction. When one of our patients is sick and goes to a doctor, they’re not treated real well – they’re judged harshly for their addiction.
So when we offer free HCV treatment in-house it's a big help because that's one less worry, one less hurdle – and it’s an incentive to stay in treatment because now they can get their addiction under control and get their hepatitis C cured at the same time."
"As dark as it sometimes seems, there is always hope. A patient may quit treatment 10 times, but there's always hope that the next time they walk through the door, something in them has changed. Or something about the way we are doing things will change - it will click - and they will be on that true road to recovery. That's what you live for isn't it?"
"I have a true belief that if we can help one person - I don't care if there's 300 that come through the door. If we help one person save themselves, that one person will make a difference. They could save their whole family.”
"We want to see people have a life they never thought would be within their reach. And it's an honor to be part of that success story - to witness people growing to their full potential."
Fulton Behavioral Health Services Launches HIV Testing
“I like the challenge - learning what I can do to help a patient get tested. I’ve learned to be patient and keep an open mind... but above all, I’ve learned to listen – really listen - to what the patient is saying.”
Newcomer Anne Bruno-Gaston, MPH, MT AAB of Fulton County Behavioral Health Services is in a learning curve – and enjoying it. “I worked in the public health system for 24 years, but now I'm serving a different population – and I’m interacting with patients. They’re not coming in to be tested; they’re here for behavioral healthcare. And it’s my job to engage them in HIV testing.”
“It gives me satisfaction when someone agrees to be tested - there's a success in someone learning their status. This is like a dream job for me; I'm so grateful to my supervisor Lynnette Allen for giving me the opportunity to do work that I love.”
“There are times when I need guidance – from Lynnette, but also from my peers. I learn from everyone – the intake person, the nurses, the doctors – things like when to approach a patient. I don’t want to offer HIV testing if someone is having a crisis.”
This quarter, Anne provided HIV testing to 59 individuals and made a note of the reasons clients declined. Objections included fear the result would be positive, stigma, and mistrust. “Trust a big issue,” says Anne. “I let them know that the testing is confidential. Then I say, ‘I would like to educate so you will know how to protect yourself from HIV.’ So they sit down and listen to the story. I like to start by asking them what they know. ‘How do you think you get HIV?’ And we go from there – risk factors, prevention, and the miracle of HIV treatment. Once they start listening, some of them decide they want to know their status after all. And even if they still say no, I know they’ll be back. Maybe by the next visit they’ll agree to be tested.”
“I like the challenge. I like learning what I can do to help a patient get tested. I’ve learned to be patient and keep an open mind. I had to be willing to make changes in the way I approach a patient, but above all, I’ve learned to listen – really listen - to what the patient is saying.”
INSTI HIV Testing & Prevention Counseling / Part 1 - March 3, 2022
INSTI HIV Testing & Prevention Counseling / Part 2 - March 30, 2022
INSTI HIV Testing & Prevention Counseling / Part 2 (aka Booster) - March 30, 2022