HAMMOND - State and local officials from both Indiana and Illinois are celebrating the opening of a first-of-its-kind clinic in Hammond. Mishawaka-based Franciscan Health says the new Multi-Specialty Hepatitis C and HIV Clinic will serve both the northwest Indiana and south suburban Chicago communities.

The clinic is located at the Franciscan Health Hammond hospital. Dennis Stover, director of HIV, STD and viral hepatitis for the Indiana State Department of Health, calls the clinic a model for the country.

“We know the HIV arena organized very early and it had a lot of community behind it. The hepatitis C community does not have that, so marrying up HIV and hepatitis C is very important to not have to relearn those lessons that we learned in the ‘80s," said Stover. "The importance is that they go hand in hand. A lot of folks that become HIV positive are also at risk of hepatitis C."

Franciscan says it has begun notifying people in the Franciscan Alliance network born between 1945 and 1965 they should be screened for hepatitis C, which has had the greatest effect on baby boomers. The health system cites the CDC, which says people in that age range should be screened at least once in their lifetime.

Franciscan says, in the beginning, providers at the clinic will offer services from 8:00 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays, with other days being made available for free hepatitis C screenings.

(Pictured from left) Lora Branch, associate director of FOCUS Gilead Sciences; Dr. Claude Foreit, vice president of Franciscan Physician Network; Eduardo Alvarado, chief of the HIV/AIDS section for the Illinois Department of Public Health; Dennis Stover, director of HIV, STD and viral hepatitis for the Indiana Department of Health; Patrick Maloney, president and CEO of Franciscan Health Hammond, Munster and Dyer; Sun Lee-Such, Franciscan Health administrative director of pharmacy services for Northern Indiana and South Suburban Chicago Division; and Jolietta Holliman, director of the Hepatitis C Program, Franciscan Health Foundation.