For individuals living with Hepatitis C, accessing the appropriate care can often be a difficult task. SWACH has been proud to partner with Community Voices are Born (CVAB) and Sea Mar Community Health Centers on the Hepatitis C Cures program to help these community members get the care they need, often including the medication necessary to cure the illness.
The Hepatitis C Cures program has been largely successful in helping people in Southwest Washington go from a positive Hepatitis C test to being cured in a short time. This success has been achieved through a broad network of organizations working together and pharmacies improving access to treatment. Perhaps the most crucial element of this program’s success, however, has been the support of peer navigators.
Peer navigators can connect with their clients in ways that no one else can. They often have similar lived experiences as the people they work with. This helps establish trust and empathy for individuals seeking treatment. This relationship can help clients feel comfortable enough to share their struggles and other factors affecting their health. The peer navigator can then use that information to help overcome the barriers preventing treatment and successful outcomes.
The element of lived experience gives the client an advantage when working with a peer navigator. Not only can the peer create a safe space for an honest conversation about the patient’s situation, but they can also provide support in accessing resources that affect other parts of their lives. Being able to address the social determinants of health for each client opens the door for successful treatment.
Nathalie is one of the remarkable peers of this program. She has worked closely with individuals to seek treatment while also finding ways to help with other challenges they face. The impact she has had is truly one-of-a-kind.
“A client [of mine] was leaving a violent relationship. She was scared to leave her home and would only leave with her daughter by her side,” said Nathalie. The client met with Nathalie, who then began accompanying her to do essential errands and trips. With Nathalie’s support, she also completed treatment and was cured of Hepatitis C.
Nathalie’s impact doesn’t stop there. She has helped people go from living in tents to clean and sober living, supported a client in getting a liver transplant after being diagnosed with cancer, and helped another get financial aid to start college. Another was able to go through the training to become a peer navigator as well. Nathalie was able to help her clients in a broad array of areas to help them improve their quality of life.
The success of the program wasn’t exclusively due to the peer navigators. Provider support was an important aspect of ensuring people were cured of the illness. Community based peers and clinically-based providers work closely with each other to better understand the full picture of a client’s experience and needs. Nathalie expressed appreciation to the Sea Mar team for their part of the work. She felt very supported, knowing the team cared about her safety and comfort. “The partnership has been amazing,” she added.
For Dr. Stupski, the provider overseeing the program, this relationship has been extremely beneficial. Prior to adding peer navigators, the number of people seeing treatment all the way through was declining. Once peers were involved, the numbers from positive tests to cure improved. This partnership helped reach Dr. Stupski’s goal of better managing and supporting patients with Hepatitis C.
“This partnership proves to the rest of the world that we can do this work together as one team,” said Daryn Nelson-Soza of Sea Mar Community Health Centers. For her, it demonstrates how we can improve relationships across different organizations to better support one another.
SWACH’s involvement in this program ended in early 2022. Nathalie will continue to work with CVAB as a peer navigator – that connection will remain in place although the program is changing. Anyone seeing Dr. Stupski can continue to receive peer support. We are grateful to Dr. Stupski, the peer navigators, and everyone at CVAB and Sea Mar Community Health Centers for their dedication to this program.