National coalition provides emergency COVID-19 funding to Greater Appalachian organizations


A national coalition announced it will provide HepConnect grantees in Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia with emergency funding to address increased needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funds, $135,000, from the Harm Reduction Coalition, with additional support from Gilead Sciences, Inc. will help qualified providers who previously received funding grants from HepConnect purchase additional supplies like personal protective equipment and office supplies, provide staff with extra training, and cover staff expenses during the pandemic.

HepConnect is an initiative funded by Gilead Sciences, Inc. to increase the ability of organizations working with substance abusers in states significantly impacted by rising hepatitis C (HCV) rates. The funding, more than $5 million, was awarded to 32 organizations in October 2019. That funding focused on expanding screening for HCV, connecting patients to care, and educating health care professionals about HCV and harm reduction services.

Shelter-in-place orders across states have impacted providers’ ability to connect with substance abusers while increasing the stressors placed on substance abusers to continue their destructive habits.

“What we’ve seen in Indiana is the current COVID-19 crisis exacerbating so many other existent crisis for our participants,” said Jes Cochran, executive director at The Never Alone Project. “And while harm reduction in Indiana is typically falling under the purview of local health departments, so many of those programs are seeing staffing shortages and closures due to COVID. Expansion of our services, from naloxone delivery to our on-the-ground outreach activities, has been rapid and exponential and we are honored by the ongoing support of Heard Reduction Coalition as we continue to show up in as many ways as possible for our people and our city.”

The emergency funding will $7,500 over the next three months to 18 of the grantees, including :
• Indiana Recover Alliance
• The Never Alone Project
• AVOL Kentucky, Inc.
• Muhlenberg County Health Department
• Hyde County Health Department
• North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition
• Next Step Initiative
• Cabell-Huntington Health Department
• Opioid Response Innovative Initiative (Sostento, Inc.)
• Imani And Unidad, Inc.
• Appalachian Regional Healthcare
• Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition
• Madison County Health Department
• North Carolina Survivors Union
• The Olive Branch Ministry
• Street Works
• Milan Puskar Health Right
• Virginia Harm Reduction Coalition

“Street works would love to thank HepConnect for the relief funds we received,” said Thomas Gooch, prevention director at StreetWorks. “It allowed us to purchase more supplies, operate untraditional hours, purchase bus passes as well as food for our participants. This would not have been possible if we had not received this particular funding opportunity.”