UPMC Health Plan


Bill Ries
UPMC Health Plan


UPMC and UPMC Health Plan Launch “Freedom House 2.0” to Recruit, Train and Employ First Responders from Economically Disadvantaged Communities Impacted by COVID

Initiative supported with $235,000 grant from Partner4Work

Pittsburgh (Dec. 11, 2020) – Echoing Pittsburgh’s groundbreaking 1960s-1970s initiative that provided emergency management service (EMS) training to economically disadvantaged individuals, UPMC and UPMC Health Plan today announced candidate recruitment is underway for the Hill District-based “Freedom House 2.0” program to train and employ a new generation of emergency responders. 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.

“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 – and in many cases, where COVID-19 has created or further exacerbated economic hardship and job loss. Like the successful Freedom House program that served the Hill District from 1968 to 1975 with the nation’s first pre-hospital response service, the Freedom House 2.0 unique, practical curriculum recognizes that ambulance services provide not just transportation, but treatment and support.

The training will focus on traditional EMS services 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.

“’Freedom House 2.0’ will help meet several critical health care needs in some of our underserved communities by providing both fulfilling and sustainable employment opportunities and practical assistance in connecting citizens to the right health care resources,” said Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto. “This is an important partnership – directly in line with our Public Safety Academy at Westinghouse High School – to address health and economic disparities, and the City of Pittsburgh looks forward to working with UPMC and the other program partners to deliver meaningful results.”

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. These positions are in high demand, both within UPMC and regionally, and are listed as “High Priority Occupations” for workplace development by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor. Successful graduates will be guaranteed an interview with UPMC and other job placement support.

“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 healthcare 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.

Participants will receive instruction and training at the Neighborhood Resilience Project, a community-based organization and health clinic, located in Hill District. “I’m excited to be a part of this next generation initiative that builds upon the historic Freedom House that served Pittsburgh communities in the 1960s and 1970s,” said Father Paul Abernathy, Chief Executive Officer of the Neighborhood Resilience Project. “The Neighborhood Resilience Project is the perfect location that reflects the skills Freedom House recruits will acquire and how their future work will contribute to the strength of the Hill District and other communities that will be served by Freedom House graduates.”

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 check online at https://upmchp.us/FreedomHouse or access the program via email at pathwaystowork@upmc.edu.


About UPMC

A $21 billion health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates more than 90,000 employees, 40 hospitals, 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 3.8 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical insurer in western Pennsylvania. In the most recent fiscal year, UPMC contributed $1.4 billion in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution, and paid more than $500 million in federal, state, and local taxes. Working in close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC shares its clinical, managerial, and technological skills worldwide through its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, and through UPMC International. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside among the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. For more information, go to UPMC.com.

About UPMC Insurance Services

Serving more than 3.9 million members, UPMC Insurance Services is owned and operated by UPMC, a world-renowned health care provider and insurer based in Pittsburgh, Pa. UPMC Insurance Services includes commercial products from UPMC Health Plan for groups as well as individuals. Commercial products also include workers' compensation and employee assistance from nationally known Workpartners. Government products include Medicare Advantage (UPMC for Life); special needs plans for those eligible for Medicare and Medical Assistance (UPMC for Life Complete Care and UPMC Community HealthChoices); Medical Assistance (UPMC for You); and Children's Health Insurance Program (UPMC for Kids); and Community Care Behavioral Health, one of the nation's largest managed care behavioral health organizations. For more information, visit www.upmchealthplan.com.

About the original Freedom House Ambulance Service

Freedom House – launched in Pittsburgh in the 1960s – trained “unemployable” individuals and helped to transform the state of ambulance services. The model included job readiness preparation, an EMT course, community paramedic paramedic/community health worker training focused on social determinants of health, mental health awareness and trauma-informed practices, and resiliency training.