The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has awarded seven health centers in New York City a series of $3.5 million grants to help better identify, diagnose and treat people living with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), according to a statement by Montefiore Medical Center, a recipient of one of the grant packages.

The new federal funding is part of a larger $10 million CMS Health Care Innovation Award. Grants were awarded to Montefiore Medical Center, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Fund for Public Health in New York, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Weill Cornell Medical College, VNSNY Choice and HealthFirst.

According to CMS, the grant money will go toward three main goals: to increase the number of patients starting on hep C treatment and to closely monitor their care; to help patients achieve better overall health via a hep C cure and through screenings for depression and alcohol abuse; and to help lower hospital costs by reducing preventable diseases and complications from HCV.

As such, the three-year funding initiative is called Project INSPIRE NYC (“Innovate and Network to Stop HCV and Prevent complications via Integrating care, Responding to needs and Engaging patients and providers”).

INSPIRE will also be supported by a telemedicine system, which will link primary care physicians in the centers to a hepatologist, an infectious disease specialist and a mental health provider.

About 146,500 New Yorkers are currently living with chronic HCV. About half of them are unaware that they have the virus.