UPMC & UPMC Health Plan Launch Freedom House 2.0 to Support Economically Disadvantaged Individuals

By: Taylor Andres

UPMC and UPMC Health Plan recently launched “Freedom House 2.0”— a project designed to recruit, train and employ first responders from economically disadvantaged communities, many of which have been significantly impacted by COVID-19.

“This community-based training program recognizes how emergency response has evolved,” said Dan Swayze, UPMC Health Plan vice president of community services and director of operations, UPMC Innovative Health Care Solutions. “UPMC and UPMC Health Plan understand that today’s paramedics need to take time to find out what an individual actually needs and get him or her connected to the right system of care, rather than just assuming the emergency department has the best solution.”

Run through the UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care, the program will provide training and support in two, 10-week cohorts to individuals facing health and economic disparities. The training will focus on traditional emergency medical services (EMS) and on equipping first responders to help address critical, non-emergency psychosocial needs— such as poorly managed chronic medical and behavioral health conditions and a lack of access to resources to address them— that comprise a significant portion of 911 calls.

The project echoes Pittsburgh’s original “Freedom House” initiative from 1968-1975—which provided  EMS training to economically disadvantaged individuals in the city’s Hill District.

“Just as Pittsburgh’s original Freedom House modernized emergency, prehospital response, Freedom House 2.0 has the potential to help transform community health,” added Swayze. “The programs will galvanize a new part of the health care workforce who can be empowered to deliver meaningful service and who can be drawn from the communities where such care is needed the most,” said Swayze.

Starting in January, Freedom House 2.0 participants will receive mentorship and financial support, as well as state approved EMT certification and community paramedic and community health care worker training. Successful graduates will be guaranteed an interview with UPMC and other job placement support.

Freedom House 2.0 is funded from a $235,000 grant from Partner4Work, the public workforce investment board for Allegheny County, and builds upon UPMC’s Pathways to Work program and ongoing collaboration with the board on strategies to offer low-income individuals meaningful job training and support.

Participants will receive instruction and training at the Neighborhood Resilience Project, a community-based organization and health clinic, located in Hill District.

Outreach to new candidates includes a focus on new Medicaid members in Allegheny County and UPMC Health Plan’s existing efforts with Partner4Work. Those interested in participating in the program or in promoting the opportunity in their communities can visit https://upmchp.us/FreedomHouse or contact the program via email at pathwaystowork@upmc.edu.