Swope Health Provides Hep C Leadership: Show Me the Cure

Rachel Melson

Swope Health played a role in this month’s launch of “Show Me the Cure,” a statewide plan to eliminate hepatitis C. The plan was unveiled at a May 19 event in Jefferson City by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The plan calls for universal testing, treatment, improving outcomes for people living with Hepatitis C, and preventing new infections.

Rachel Melson, Doctor of Nursing Practice and Outreach Clinic Director, began a similar program at Swope Health in 2019, which produced remarkable results: more than 210 patients cured of the disease in just three years.

She was named to the state task force on Hepatitis C and she participates in the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Viral Hepatitis Stakeholders Group. As part of this group, she developed a Hepatitis C Provider “Pocket Guide” as a resource to other healthcare providers to increase the availability of treatment across the state for Hepatitis C.

The pocket guide has been endorsed by the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council, MOHealthnet’s Project HepCURE, and the Mid-America Addiction Technology Center.

The pocket guide includes clinical guidelines for Hepatitis C testing and treatment, medication coverage assistance, provider clinical support, and education and resources on overdose prevention and harm reduction.

As part of the Missouri stakeholders group, Dr. Melson provides guidance to other clinicians in the state who are starting to treat Hepatitis C as a clinical expert through the Show-Me ECHO platform. Nationally, she has been recognized as a Subject Matter Expert in Hepatitis C for the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council.

“I’m proud of the role Swope Health has played in the statewide effort,” she said. “Our goal is to ensure everyone has access to testing and treatment for Hepatitis C, and ultimately, to end Hepatitis C.”


What is Hepatitis C?

The hepatitis C virus is one of the most significant health problems affecting the liver. More than half of the individuals diagnosed with Hep C will develop chronic infection, while the other half may experience acute infection that may spontaneously clear.

The CDC offers explanations for all the primary types of viral hepatitis: A, B and C.

Hepatitis A and B are viral infections in the liver. Because of vaccine availability, numbers of cases of Hepatitis A and B have declined dramatically. Because Hepatitis B can become a lifelong infection causing serious liver damage or cancer, vaccination is recommended for all infants at birth. Hepatitis A infections are usually self-limiting without long-term complications and vaccination is recommended based on risk.  If you are unsure of your risk or if you are unaware of your vaccination status, discuss vaccination for Hepatitis A and B with your healthcare provider.

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus. Most people who are infected will have lifelong infection, which can cause serious problems including liver disease or liver failure, or cancer. There are an estimated 2.4 million people living with the disease, and many may not know they are infected as they may not have symptoms.

This disease spreads through contact with blood from an infected person. Most people become infected by sharing needles or syringes in injected drug use. However, it is possible to get Hepatitis C in other ways such as: unprotected sex, sharing personal items like toothbrushes or razors, and unregulated tattoos or body piercings.

Currently, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. But there is a CURE.

Hepatitis C and YOU

Anyone who has tested positive for Hepatitis C can call Swope Health to participate in the program – regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay. For more information, call the Hep C Nurse at 816-321-3604.

If you are unsure of your Hep C status, you can ask to be screened at Swope Health. All adults age 18 and older should be tested at least once and continue to get routine testing if they have risk factors or conditions including HIV infection, injection drug use, recent incarceration or are receiving dialysis.


“Show Me the Cure”

“Missouri’s hepatitis C plan provides a roadmap for the state to use to eliminate hepatitis C. This plan was developed in collaboration with diverse partners from across the state, which was essential for ensuring that the needs of Missourians were addressed in the plan,” according to a statement from Alicia Jenkins, Chief of the Missouri Department of Health and Social Services’ Bureau of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis.

The “Show Me the Cure” plan focuses on access to services, provider development, education, collaboration and awareness, surveillance, and policy and advocacy.

Access to Services

  • Increase the proportion of people who are tested and aware of their hepatitis C status.
  • Develop linkage to care for confirmatory testing and treatment.

Provider Development

  • Increase the number of health care providers who are trained to identify, diagnose and treat people with hepatitis C.

Education, Collaboration and Awareness

  • Increase awareness of testing and treatment for people living with hepatitis C.
  • Educate Missourians on health equity, stigma, and cultural humility regarding hepatitis C.


  • Evaluate the current hepatitis C surveillance system.
  • Improve the quality and completeness of hepatitis C data, including improved demographics and risk factor data reporting.
  • Routinely analyze, disseminate findings and utilize hepatitis C data to develop and improve testing and linkage to care programs.
  • Identify data resources and collaborate with other organizations to compile information regarding HCV populations.

Policy and Advocacy

  • Increase awareness of services for patients, and increase opportunities for advocacy.
  • Increase awareness regarding policies and laws that create barriers to hepatitis C testing and treatment.
  • Encourage and promote hepatitis C universal screening in primary care and other settings that provide services to those at highest risk.

The plan was developed in collaboration with MO HealthNet, Missouri Department of Corrections, Missouri Department of Mental Health, Hep C Alliance, Missouri Telehealth Network & Show-Me ECHO, St. Louis County Department of Public Health, City of St. Louis Department of Health, AIDS Project of the Ozarks, Missouri Primary Care Association, Swope Health, Washington University – Project ARK, KC Care Health Center, Clay County Public Health Center, CoxHealth, Missouri Rural Health Association and AbbVie.



Feb. 19 Free COVID-19 Vaccinations

Swope Health invites you to join us at a free COVID-19 vaccination event 10 am – 2 pm Saturday, Feb. 19 the DeLaSalle Education Center, 3737 Troost Ave., Kansas City, Missouri.

The event is open to all — students, family and the community of DeLaSalle. COVID-19 vaccinations will be available for individuals age 5 and up; those under 18 must have parent or guardian present.

Booster vaccinations will also be available. Boosters are recommended five months after your primary vaccine dose(s).  Please remember to bring your vaccination card.

Join us!

Join us: Panel on Chronic Kidney Disease

In advance of National Kidney Month in March, Swope Health will participate in a free online program to raise awareness about the risks of chronic kidney disease.

The virtual meeting will be 6 pm Tuesday, Jan. 25 via Zoom. Register for this event:


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

The event is a Black K.A.R.E. (Kidney Awareness Resources and Education) forum sponsored by the Jackson County (MO) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, in partnership with Swope Health.

The event will feature Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Chief Quality Officer at Swope Health, as well as a patient living with chronic kidney disease. Michael Williams will share information about his diagnosis and experience living with the disease, as well as offer guidance for others who’ve just learned of the disease.

“Take it seriously, from the start,” he said. “I’m just now getting a new lease on it because I’m trying to do things differently. Learning about it all – it woke me.”

This panel discussion is designed to raise awareness and provide education that will improve the health of those in our community diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. It will also provide useful information for family and friends who serve as caregivers for individuals with chronic kidney disease.

Additional participants in the panel:

  • Moderator, Dr. Camille Honesty, hospitalist
  • Christie Gooden-Magee, kidney transplant specialist
  • Cheryl Kapalka, nutrition dietitian

Chronic kidney disease affects 37 million Americans, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. African-Americans are three times more likely to experience kidney failure than white Americans. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of kidney disease.

Vaccination event POSTPONED

Swope Health and El Centro are postponing the vaccination event scheduled for 3-7 pm Monday, Jan. 10.

We will announce the rescheduled date as soon as it is available. 


Join us 9 am – noon Saturday, Jan. 22, for free food giveaway at Swope Health West, 4835 State Ave., Kansas City, Kan., with partners Harvesters, El Centro and Livable Neighborhoods.

Swope Health Can Help You Take Steps to Prevent Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Month, a time to focus on diabetes awareness, understanding and prevention.

At Swope Health, diabetes prevention and education are always in season.

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood sugar (or glucose) is too high. Normally the body regulates glucose by producing insulin, which helps glucose get converted into energy in your cells. When your body doesn’t make enough insulin, the glucose, which comes from the foods you eat, can’t be converted into energy.

There’s no cure for diabetes, but it can be managed and even prevented.

In 2018, Swope Health launched an innovative program focusing on diabetes prevention. The program, piloted at Swope Health Independence, provided a diabetes checklist used with every patient to look for early signs of diabetes-related complications.. As the primary diabetes-related issues are kidney disease, blindness and amputations, patients were asked to complete lab tests to evaluate kidney function, have a vision screening and receive a foot exam at least once a year.

The vision screening occurs on-site, during the patient’s regular visit, using a hand-held device that sends images to an optometrist for review. Patients don’t need to schedule a separate visit to an optometrist.

Dr. Naiomi Jamal

Dr. Naiomi Jamal

The focused diabetes checklist is now in use at all Swope Health clinics, said Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Chief Quality Officer at Swope Health.

In addition to the checklist, if any uninsured patients have uncontrolled diabetes, Swope Health provides extra support  through an assigned Nurse Care Manager.

The Nurse Care Manager checks in regularly with the patient, and provides support for any questions about medications, diet or exercise. In addition, the Nurse Care Manager identifies any issues that might serve as barriers to good health, including other medical needs, lack of access to fresh foods or transportation, and behavioral health challenges. Similar services are offered to Medicaid patients with uncontrolled diabetes through Swope Health’s Primary Care Medical Home program

“The Nurse Care Manager develops specific care plans with each patient,” Dr. Jamal said. “We help our patients set goals and achieve them.”

Despite pandemic-related disruptions, the results appear promising.

“We tend to have better outcomes with the personalized care of the Nurse Care Manager,” she said.

Diabetes affects more than 9 percent of the population, according to the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the federal government. It affects one in four people over age 65, and often individuals are unaware they have the disease. Left untreated, diabetes can cause serious health problems including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye problems, foot problems, dental disease and nerve damage.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services says an estimated 38,000 people are diagnosed with diabetes in Missouri every year. Additionally, one in three Missourians have “prediabetes,” a condition in which blood glucose is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetes-healthy holiday recipe

The holiday season is nearly here, and with it come temptations for unhealthy eating, especially if you are watching your weight or avoiding high glucose levels.

Priscilla Perez Schmidt, Swope Health registered dietitian, has options to help.

“Two important strategies that can help you enjoy traditional ingredients while staying healthy are, one, make your own meals and invite family or friends over, and two, choose desserts that do not have flour in their ingredients,” she said.

“I have developed a recipe that can help you achieve both strategies,” she added. The recipe (below) is easy and healthy — and delicious!



  • 6 apples
  • 2 Tbsp. Truvia sweetener (or any other non-caloric sweetener)
  • 3 Tbsp. margarine
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin spice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup granola


  1. Wash and cut the apples with an apple slicer.
  2. Put the apple slices in a large skillet and add the spices (sweetener, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin spice) and margarine.
  3. Cook for 20 minutes in low-medium heat, covered.

One serving is: 1/4 cup apple bake with 1 Tbsp. granola on top and 1 Tbsp. whipped cream.

This recipe serves six. It takes about 25 minutes to prepare and costs about $2.50. It has 25 grams of carbohydrate in each serving.

In comparison,  a store-bought apple pie will cost about $3.85, and serves five with 58 grams of carbohydrate in each serving.

Free Thanksgiving Webinar

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and one of the most important elements for enjoying the holiday is staying healthy! The many carbohydrate-rich seasonal dishes can make this goal challenging if you are trying to avoid weight gain or high glucose levels – especially important for those with diabetes or conditions approaching diabetes.

Swope Health is here to help!

Join us for a free Thanksgiving webinar:
How to Save Dollars and Calories during the Holidays” 

Noon to 12:30 pm Wednesday, November 17
Zoom link: https://swopehealth.zoom.us/j/92096789566pwd=NkNSdS9RaERQd0NkVVN0bnFITW5FZz09
Meeting ID: 920 9678 9566 / Passcode: HOLIDAYS

Priscilla Pérez Schmid, Swope Health’s Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, will share tips on how to enjoy those holiday gatherings, parties and dinners AND stay on track with your health goals. She will cover topics such as appropriate portions of  carbohydrates  (such as potatoes), easy ways to incorporate veggies, and methods to understand caloric balance needs.

Plus, use Priscilla’s guidance on preparing a simpler (only 10 ingredients) and healthier Thanksgiving dinner—easy on the budget and the calories! Follow along with her recipe, below (or download here).



New precautions to protect patients: Triage, drive-up tests and new clinic

Swope Health continues to make adjustments to create a safer environment for patients and associates.

Before you arrive at Swope Health Central, you should CALL 816-923-5800. If you have concerns about COVID-19 symptoms, you will have a new array of options as well as the recommended telehealth visit from the safety of your home.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, when you call, we’ll determine the next steps:

  • If you are an existing patient, you may receive a COVID-19 test from our drive-up location at Building C. Look for the designated parking spots and call 816-599-5418 when you arrive. When you call, you will be checked in and a nurse will come to your car to do the test. Tests are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and results are returned in 24-48 hours.


  • You may be advised to have a telehealth visit with a Swope Health clinical associate. In this case, you will receive a text with a link to start your appointment. Swope Health is scheduling as many appointments as possible using telehealth same-day or within the next business day, as a precaution for public health and for patient convenience.
  • You may be advised to come to Swope Health for an in-person visit. In this case, you will come to the Building C entrance where you will be assessed by our triage nurse. You will be escorted to our new “sick” clinic in Building C. The sick clinic operates from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

REMEMBER – CALL FIRST: 816-923-5800.

If you come to any Swope Health facility, you must wear a mask at all times. While at Swope Health, we will also encourage you to receive a COVID-19 vaccination if you have not already done so. We are happy to answer your questions about the vaccine and your health.

Swope Health supports Breast Cancer Awareness month

October is the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as designated by the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Throughout the month, Swope Health and other organizations campaign to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer.

At Swope Health, we encourage women to get breast screening examinations to take better care of their own health.

Swope Health Central will offer walk-in mammograms for women age 50 and older from 9 a.m. to noon every Tuesday and Thursday in October. No appointment is necessary, and you don’t need a provider’s order. The fee is $25. 

Breast screenings can be lifesaving. Screenings offer a chance at early detection of breast disease or cancer, and earlier detection means better chances of treatment and recovery.

As in the national campaign, Swope Health will invite women to share personal stories of their breast cancer experiences with a goal of honoring those affected by breast cancer. We will invite you to take a selfie, fill out a card with your information or leave your contact information for us to follow up. With your permission, we’ll share your stories.

Mammograms can be lifesaving.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women age 50 and older receive a mammogram screening for breast cancer every two years. Swope Health encourages this, too.

The screening is basically an X-ray of the breast, usually involving two or more images. These images make it possible to identify tumors that can’t be detected by touch.

Early detection reduces the risk of dying from the disease by 25 percent or more, according to BreastCancer.org. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note the smaller a tumor is the more likely it is to be curable. So, having regular mammograms lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.

Black and Hispanic women have higher mortality rates of breast cancer than all other races. Women in lower socio-economic levels have disproportionately higher death rates than those in higher income levels.



Swope Health offers mammogram screenings to any woman age 50 or older who hasn’t had a screening in two years, without healthcare insurance. You must be a Swope Health patient. This service is provided under grants from The Research Foundation and Komen Kansas + Western Missouri, an affiliate of Susan G. Komen Foundation. Learn more.


Swope Health launches integrated care pilot, linking primary care & behavioral health

Innovative program, funded by UnitedHealthcare, aims for better health outcomes, quality care at reduced costs

Swope Health today announced the launch of a program to demonstrate the effectiveness of integrated care, a model that teams primary care with behavioral healthcare and community resources.

The program adopts the principles of the Primary Care Behavioral Health Consultation Model, which creates a team for patient care. In the team, primary care providers work hand-in-hand with behavioral health consultants and community health workers. The team approach pays special attention to social determinants of health, such as housing, transportation, food security and other challenges while supporting primary and behavioral healthcare.

“We know the challenges our patients face – in housing, schools, jobs, transportation, access to food, for example – produce negative health effects that can last a lifetime,” said Jeron Ravin, J.D., president and CEO of Swope Health. “Swope Health is demonstrating that health policy can be changed to address all facets of health equity. We will validate a model practice that integrates medical care, behavioral healthcare and social support resources for our patients.”

The program is funded by a grant of $80,000 from UnitedHealthcare. Over the course of the year-long program, Swope Health will track the health metrics to demonstrate improvement. There is significant research to indicate the model can improve health outcomes by addressing mental health issues and support behavior changes to improve treatment of chronic disease.

“We fully support a whole-person care model that increases member engagement, fills gaps in care and develops personalized health goals. When we all work together, we can help people get the right care from the right provider at the right time, which all leads to better health,” said Jamie Bruce, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Missouri.

“This model reduces the stigma surrounding mental health and makes it easier to address social and mental health needs with a team-based care approach embedded in primary care,” said Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Swope Health chief quality officer. “With a team approach, we can assist patients with Medicaid enrollment or securing transportation or food resources, as well as providing counseling and medical care. It all happens in the same visit, in the same location.”

The program is a continuation of Swope Health’s steady integration of services, first initiated in 2014 with a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, and then expanded in 2018 and 2019.

Here’s how it works: when a patient comes for a visit, in addition to the usual conversation about how the patient is feeling, the clinical team also asks about social factors that can impact health – such as access to food, housing and transportation. Other questions explore behaviors, for example, is there a need for improved adherence to chronic disease management regimens or learning coping skills to better manage anxiety and depression? If a need is identified, a member of the team – a community health worker or behavioral health consultant – offers services on site, often during the same visit.

The model is designed to benefit all participants: patients, providers and insurers. The patients receive improved access to care and resources. The insurers benefit from reduced cost of care through fewer emergency room visits and hospitalizations. And providers benefit by having better workload management and support.

“We are changing the way we look after our patients at Swope Health,” said Dr. Jamal. “We are taking away barriers. If there’s a need, we will provide help.”


The Integrated Care Team, under the direction of Dr. Naiomi Jamal (far right),  includes the Swope Health Independence medical team as well as a community health worker and a behavioral health consultant.

Dr. Jamal (far right) consults with the Community Health Worker and Behavioral Health Consultant every morning to review integrated care plans for the day’s patients.