A bear in the mist with the words "Deconstructing Silos" on it

Community Education Group Issues New Report Warning of Addiction/Hepatitis/HIV “Syndemic” in West Virginia

A bear in the mist with the words "Deconstructing Silos" on it

For Immediate Release

Community Education Group Issues New Report Warning of Addiction/Hepatitis/HIV “Syndemic” in West Virginia

LOST RIVER, W.Va. (May 3, 2021) – A new report issued by the Community Education Group (CEG) details what the organization calls a “syndemic” of Substance Use Disorder, Viral Hepatitis, and HIV that constitutes a grave and ongoing threat to public health in West Virginia.

The report, entitled Deconstructing Silos in West Virginia: Breaking Down Barriers Between HIV, Substance Use Disorder, and Viral Hepatitis Care, describes how misguided policies and gaps in infrastructure are leaving multiple West Virginia counties vulnerable to outbreaks of Hepatitis and HIV, largely driven by the state’s opioid addiction crisis. West Virginia leads the nation in Viral Hepatitis diagnoses, and new HIV diagnoses have been increasing since 2017. The document lays out steps for reversing these trends, such as improving access to testing and treatment, and making sure infected and at-risk patients are referred to the appropriate care and services.

A. Toni Young, CEG’s executive director, emphasized the importance of addressing the linked HIV, Hepatitis, and Substance Use crises together, in a coordinated way.

“Treating these problems as separate epidemics has only inhibited accurate data collection and made effective prevention efforts more difficult,” said Young. “These are linked crises, and here in West Virginia they are turning into a kind of perfect storm that our health infrastructure is currently just not equipped to deal with.”

The new report from CEG, a nonprofit with decades of experience strategizing public health interventions in vulnerable communities, calls for improving public access to testing, treatment, and health information. Other recommendations include beefing up public health staff and infrastructure, and expanding availability of Opioid Treatment and Harm Reduction programs—interventions that have been shown to help decrease HIV and Hepatitis infection rates, but which have been hampered by political opposition that ignores their effectiveness.

The full Deconstructing Silos report can be accessed here: https://cutt.ly/CEG-Deconstructing-Silos-Report

The Community Education Group (CEG) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization working to ignite community engagement, eliminate disparities in health outcomes, and improve public health in vulnerable populations and underserved communities. CEG accomplishes this by conducting research, training community health workers to educate and test people who are hard to reach or at risk, sharing expertise through national networks and local capacity building efforts, and advocating for practical and effective health policies that lead to social change. 

MEDIA CONTACT:

Community Education Group
A. Toni Young
tyoung@communityeducationgroup.org
(304) 278-4420

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New River Bridge Bridge Day Celebration

Community Education Group Forms West Virginia Statewide Stakeholder Coalition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Public Health and Community Organizations Join Forces to Combat Triple Threat of Substance Use, HIV, Hepatitis Outbreaks in West Virginia

New Coalition Will Take on Rising Infection Rates and Drug Overdose Deaths in the State

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. SEPTEMBER 17, 2020 – The West Virginia Statewide Stakeholder Coalition (WVSSC) convened for the first time on September 1, 2020, to address West Virginia’s growing “syndemic” of HIV/Hepatitis C (HCV) outbreaks and drug overdose deaths. The group’s primary mission is to break down technical, regulatory, and administrative barriers that limit testing, treatment, and support across HIV, viral hepatitis, and substance use disorder [SUD] programs. Such barriers create “treatment silos” that fail to reflect the medical and social realities behind the interrelated health crises—and thereby impede effective intervention.

The meeting was convened by the health advocacy organization Shepherdstown-based Community Education Group (CEG). CEG formed the new statewide coalition aimed at stemming the rising tide of fatalities and HIV and viral hepatitis infections driven by West Virginia’s ongoing opioid crisis. 

“We are facing an unprecedented Substance Use Disorder epidemic in West Virginia,” said A. Toni Young, Founder and Executive Director of CEG. “An epidemic that is directly linked to our state’s highest-in-the-nation rates of Viral Hepatitis, to three HIV outbreaks in the past four years, and to the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation. It constitutes an immediate and ongoing threat to public health, requiring a proportional response. The West Virginia Statewide Stakeholder Coalition assembles the expertise and collaborative strategy to spearhead that response.”

The WVSSC will focus on expanding awareness, education, rapid testing for HIV and Viral Hepatitis, treatment for SUD, and linkage-to-care networks which refer those recently diagnosed with HIV or Viral Hepatitis to treatment resources. 

The first WVSSC meeting brought together 65 individuals and organizations including state government and public health officials, healthcare providers, national organizations, school board officials, community-based organizations, and others from across West Virginia. 

Representatives attendees for WVSSC include: West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources; the Bureau for Public Health; the Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services; the Office of Laboratory Services; the Office of Drug Control Policy; the Doddridge, Marion, Marshall, Mid-Ohio Valley, and Monongalia County Health Departments; Berkeley County Schools; the Hancock County Commission; the Jefferson Berkeley Alliance on Substance Abuse Prevention; the United Ways of Central WV, Marion, and Taylor Counties; Community Connections; David Medical Center; the Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council; Eastridge Health Systems; EnAct, Inc.; the Family Resource Networks in Fayette, Gilmer, and Jackson Counties; the Morgan County Homeless Coalition; the Regional Intergovernmental Council; the West Virginia Institute of Community and Rural Health; West Virginia University; and many other private and public community members from across the state.

WVSSC’s primary goals include: 

1.)   Working to deconstruct disease state silos between Substance Use Disorder, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis by increasing awareness, education, and building linkages to care and treatment networks;

2.)   Working to expand HIV screening, rapid testing, surveillance, treatment, and linkage to care throughout West Virginia, reaching into hard-to-reach and hard-to-treat parts of the states;

3.)   Helping to develop statewide elimination plans for HIV and Viral Hepatitis;

4.)   Developing statewide working groups focused on SUD, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis;

5.)   Offering educational opportunities to Providers, Organizations, and Consumers centered around HIV, Substance Use Disorders, and Viral Hepatitis

NEXT MEETING: The next open meeting of WVSSC will be held on October 13, 2020, at 2:00 PM ET.  All are invited. Sign up by filling out the form at this address

Photo of an outline of the state of West Virginia made out of white powder, presumably heroin or cocaine, and a rolled up straw for snorting it

Community Education Group Launches West Virginia Opioid Treatment Survey

Photo of an outline of the state of West Virginia made out of white powder, presumably heroin or cocaine, and a rolled up straw for snorting it

CEG has launched a statewide survey for providers and People Who Use/Inject Drugs (PWUD/PWID, respectively) focusing on West Virginia’s 2007 legislative moratorium on opening any new Opioid Treatment Programs in the state.

In 2007, the West Virginia state legislature enacted a legislative moratorium (§16-5Y-12) on the opening of new Opioid Treatment Programs (OTP), halting in place the number of programs that prescribe and dispense Methadone for use in Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) to treat Opioid Use Disorder (OUD).

This moratorium limited the number of OTPs in the state to only 9 sites, statewide, who can legally provide MAT services using Methadone. It also prevents these facilities from opening secondary satellite locations, essentially locking in place where people can seek inpatient or outpatient MAT services using Methadone.

Since the passage of (§16-5Y-12), West Virginia’s opioid addiction crisis has raged out of control, leaving with the highest rate of Drug Overdose Deaths, the highest rate of new Hepatitis A infections, the highest rate of new Hepatitis B infections, and the second-highest rate of new Hepatitis C infections in the United States in 2018. In addition, Injection Drug Use (IDU) of both opioids, and stimulants accounted for 91 (62.3%) of the 146 new HIV infections in West Virginia in 2019.

The survey will gauge awareness of West Virginia’s 2007 Moratorium on the expansion of existing or opening of new Opioid Treatment Programs, as well as attitudes related to West Virginia’s Opioid Addiction Crisis. There are also sections related to Substance Use Disorder (SUD), SUD/OUD Treatment Provision, and the provision of other services that are inextricably linked to West Virginia’s opioid addiction crisis.

This survey takes between 5-30 minutes to complete, depending on how many questions pertain to the person taking this survey. Not every person surveyed will be required to answer every question.

To participate in our survey, either fill out the form, embedded below, or click on the button. Please note: the form scrolls within the page.

Logo of National Hepatitis Testing Day, held on May 19th, 2020

Community Education Group Recognizes Hepatitis Awareness Month

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month and CEG is participating by raising awareness of how the opioid and meth addiction crises in West Virginia intersect with the state’s grim record for having the highest rates of new Hepatitis B (HBV) and Hepatitis C (HCV) diagnoses in the United States.

In 2017, West Virginia reported the highest rates of new Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infections in the U.S., with rates of 11.7 (per 100,000) and 5.6 (per 100,000), respectively. The national rate of new infections for both diseases is 1.0.

That same year, West Virginia had both the highest rate of overall drug overdose deaths (57.8 per 100,000), and the highest rate of opioid-related drug overdose deaths (49.6 per 100,000) in the U.S. The national overall and opioid-related drug overdose deaths are 21.7 and 14.5, respectively.

These statistics are not unrelated.

According to the West Virginia Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services, a majority of cases of both HBV and HCV reported injection drug use and/or street-drug use as the primary risk factor for transmission (OEPS, 2018).

CEG is working tirelessly to bring attention to West Virginia’s syndemic of Substance Use Disorder, HBV, HCV, and HIV, as well as the work of our state’s various Harm Reduction Programs – those run by both county health departments, non-profits, and Rural Health Service Providers.

Stay tuned to #CEGInWV’s website and social media pages as we reveal the exciting projects we have in store for both West Virginia and across the nation. While you’re waiting, be sure to get tested for Hepatitis on National Hepatitis Testing Day – May 19th, 2020.

References

West Virginia Office of Epidemiology & Prevention Services. (2018, April). HEPATITIS B AND HEPATITIS C INFECTION IN WEST VIRGINA 2016 – Surveillance Summary – April 2018. Charleston, WV: West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources: Bureau for Public Health: Office of Epidemiology & Prevention Services: Hepatitis: Data and Surveillance: Summary Reports. Retrieved from: https://oeps.wv.gov/hepatitis/documents/data/Summary_2016_Acute_HBV-HCV.pdf