The action came in the settlement of a lawsuit against the Colorado Department of Corrections. The prison system said it would spend $41 million over the next two years to finance the treatments, according to a Sept. 12 Westword story.
The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) and the Fox Rothschild law firm.
“The funding and policy changes in the settlement will help solve an immense public health crisis in Colorado’s prisons,” ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein said.
The suit accused the Colorado Department of Corrections of denying treatment to prisoners battling hepatitis C because of the cost of the medication. Officials also required patients to undergo months of substance abuse classes before they could begin treatment, according to Westword.
Another Westword news story from 2016, “The Deadliest Killer in Colorado’s Prisons, a Curable Virus” reported that prison officials devised harsh requirements for treatment. Attorneys for the prisoners accused the state of delaying the cure because of the high cost of the medication,
“ …will help solve an immense public health crisis..”
The data did not specify how many liver-related deaths were caused by hep C-related illness Westword reported that 17 percent of the nation’s prison population have hep C.
For its 2018 and 2019 bud- get, Colorado allocated $20.5 million to address the back-log of prisoners waiting for treatment. The new treatment eliminates the virus in over 90 percent of those infected, according to the article.
The DOC had planned to treat 400 prisoners over a 10-year span. Their aim is to treat all infected prisoners by 2035. But, according to the article, the lawsuit fast-tracked the procedure.
The state will no longer subject prisoners to substance abuse classes or use liver enzyme numbers to deny them treatment. With cost dropping below $20,000 per patient, the backlog will be eliminated, and proper treatment will cut down on liver transplants and other complications, Westword reported.
Curing hep C in the prison population “will go a long way towards reducing public health risks for hep C transmission across the nation,” said Christopher Beall, an attorney for Fox Rothschild.