Governor Bill Lee is bringing forth a new proposal in hopes to help fight off the deadly hepatitis c virus in Tennessee prisons.
Stuart McWhorter, Tennessee’s Finance Commissioner, expressed to a Senate panel the request of drawing nearly $25 million from the proposed voucher-style education program to use towards funding for the treatment of hepatitis c in prisons. He states that the money isn’t going to be needed for a while because of the current education savings account proposal.
Hepatitis C is a serious disease that can spread rather quickly in prison since it spreads through contact of blood with someone who already has the disease. Currently, treating hepatitis c costs around $90,000 for full treatment, which comes to about $1,000 per pill. Out of the 2.2 million people in prison in the U.S, one in three people suffer from hepatitis c and aren’t treated for the disease.
Since 2016, prisons in Tennessee have been hard at work to stop the spread of hepatitis c. The disease had been going untreated before that, an investigation showing that out of 900 inmates that were tested, nearly half of them had hepatitis c and only eight out of that total were receiving treatment.
Three years ago, an investigation was conducted amongst prisons across Tennessee that revealed hepatitis c is an epidemic throughout inmates. The investigation showed that out of 3,487 inmates who suffered from hepatitis c, only eight of them were receiving treatment. This number may even be higher, considering not all inmates in Tennessee prisons were tested for the disease.
This information is what sparked the change, bringing forth more treatment and options to inmates who unfortunately had this virus.
Why hadn’t it already been a bigger issue since the investigation? Most of the time prisons tend to be on a limited budget, thus they can’t afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat each of their inmates. Instead of testing inmates to find the problem and acknowledge it, prisons would rather leave it untouched so they aren’t responsible for treating the inmates.
There’s currently an ongoing class action lawsuit against the state of Tennessee by inmates who believe they’re being treated wrongfully by not receiving treatment for the deadly disease causing damage to their liver. This sudden flow of money will most definitely be able to pay for treatment for inmates, thus the lawsuit may be dropped.
McWhorter had recently met with the Department of Correction and states that they reported over 6,000 inmates having hepatitis c. This is an incredibly high number, so it’s really no surprise that the proposal is coming at this time. This is most likely an all-time high, so the extra funding could definitely be more than beneficial enough for prisons.
This proposal was brought forward in hopes of eliminating the extremely high amount of prisoners suffering with this disease. The money will be used to pay for treatment and ensure the health of all inmates.