FF-medic honored with JFK Profile in Courage COVID award

Hanover Fire Captain Fred Freeman earned the award for his work in establishing the department's MIH program and using it to expand access to COVID-19 testing

Wheeler Cowperthwaite
The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass.

Name: Fred Freeman

Age: 56

Hanover Fire Captain Fred Freeman, who led the town's aggressive COVID testing program last year.
Hanover Fire Captain Fred Freeman, who led the town's aggressive COVID testing program last year. (Greg Derr/The Patriot Ledger)

Hometown: Dorchester

In the news: Freeman was recently honored with a COVID Profile in Courage award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for his work on Hanover's mobile integrated health program.

Now you know: Freeman is both a paramedic and a nurse.

His story: Hanover Fire Captain Fred Freeman said he worked his way through college at a roofing company. When he graduated, he started his own.

"I gave it a try for 10 years, but I was killing myself for $30,000 to $40,000 a year," he said. "So, I thought the fire services would be a good idea."

He started as an emergency medical technician at Fallon Ambulance Service, where he worked from 1995 to 1999. He then moved on to the Hanover Fire Department.

A few years at Hanover, Freeman decided to go back to school and signed up at Massasoit Community College. He got his nursing degree in 2007.

"After six years on the fire department, I thought I'd have kids to take care of and get them through college somehow,'" he said.

Even though Freeman was a paramedic, he said he still had a lot of learning to do.

"They're not interchangeable," he said. "There's some overlap but a paramedic can't step in to be an ICU nurse."

At fire department, Freeman worked for two years to establish a mobile integrated health program — something that uses mobile resources to deliver care and services to patients in an out‐of‐hospital environment — off the ground. At the start of the pandemic, the town set up an incident command system and everyone was assigned pandemic duties. Freeman was assigned the community health program.

May 2020: Hanover Fire Department brings coronavirus testing to residents through new Mobile Integrated Health program

Freeman said he isn't sure who came up with the idea to realize the mobile integrated health program first, him or Fire Chief Jeff Blanchard, but it seemed like the perfect time to start it.

"At the beginning, there was so much uncertainty in the spring," he said. "We did not know if COVID was like the black plague. The uncertainty was the real challenge."

The program started as a way to test vulnerable populations for COVID-19 in their homes without forcing residents to crowded and expensive testing centers. In the background, South Shore Hospital was stepping up their response and the state relaxed rules around telehealth and mobile integrated health programs. They town applied on April 3 and was approved six days later.

May 2020: In Weymouth, South Shore Health’s mobile health care program takes off during COVID-19

As the availability of testing increased, as did the number of cases. the program had to change to meet the needs of the community, which meant expanding its reach.

"Back in the spring of 2020, we were visiting four to five houses a day," he said.

Six months later, the program morphed into a community testing site where 200 cars would line up for testing in just two hours. To date, the program has administered over 11,000 tests.

December 2020: Hanover fire expands COVID testing program to drive-thru for residents

At the same time, Freeman and other officials were working with the school district for contact tracing for cases, testing for staff before school opened and testing in the schools.

September 2020: Hanover Fire Department uses the Mobile Integrated Health program to administer COVID-19 testing to teachers

"We were testing hundreds of people a day," Freeman said. "it was quite the evolution."

Freeman had to do all that work for the special program on top of his normal duties, although many fire inspections were paused during the height of the pandemic, he said.

"It was really a team effort," he said.

Blanchard said Freeman took all the pieces and services in town, including silos of healthcare providers, and made sure everyone was talking and coordinating on a daily basis.

"At one point we were making changes to policies almost hourly, as we tried to shape our program, to best meet the needs of the community," Blanchard said.

Freeman's work on the program recently earned him a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage COVID award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Blanchard and Freeman said that, while it may be Freeman getting the award, it took an entire town to work together to make everything happen.

"I'm very proud of what we've accomplished and we'd never have gotten to the point we did without Fred being able to coordinate those efforts," Blanchard said.

More: Tracking COVID-19 vaccine distribution by state: How many people have been vaccinated in the US?

February 2021: 'Very frustrating': South Shore towns decry being cut off from COVID vaccine supply

February 2021: State to stop supporting local vaccination clinics in all but 20 communities

Town Manager Joseph Colangelo said, in an interview for the award, that the work Freeman did was incredible.

"It's one thing to dream up and see the vision of this program, and it's another thing to, every day for over a year, carry it out day after day through some of the most challenging times we've ever head, and to do it with such grace and humility and poise," Colangelo said.


(c)2021 The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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