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Amid Ongoing Lawsuit, Florida's Prison Agency Asks For Millions To Treat Inmates With Hep C

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Amid an ongoing lawsuit, the Florida Department of Corrections is now asking the legislature for more than $19 million in funding to treat inmates with the Hepatitis C virus.

Ever heard of the drug, Harvoni? Classified as a “direct acting anti-viral drug,” it’s said to have a high rate of success in treating Hepatitis C.

Now, drugs, like Harvoni, are at the center of a lawsuit on behalf of Florida inmates who have the blood borne disease that can attack the liver. And, these inmates say they want the prisons to provide these drugs they say have fewer side effects.

Currently, the Florida Department of Corrections does not have any funding for the treatment of the Hepatitis C virus, also known as HCV. Kenneth Steely is the General Counsel for the prison agency.

“We were served with a class action lawsuit in May of this year, seeking to have testing for HCV for all inmates and to provide the direct acting antiviral drugs to all inmates,” speaking to a group lawmakers Tuesday. “Ya’ll are probably familiar with Harvoni commercials out there: ‘if you’re a baby boomer, come get tested for Hepatitis C.’ That’s what this litigation is about.”

Steely as well as the agency’s Chief Financial Officer Kim Banks spoke before a House Criminal Justice Budget committee Wednesday. Banks asked lawmakers for the funds to address treating Hepatitis C.

“The department is requesting $19.3 million to begin treatment of approximately 500 inmates with HCV,” she said.

Some lawmakers wondered about the ramifications of the legislature not funding the Florida Department of Corrections’ request. But, both Banks and Steely said they were either not qualified to answer those questions or could not comment due to the ongoing litigation.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.