A much-needed delivery of personal protective equipment is being airlifted to Southeast Ohio for distribution to front-line home healthcare workers. Buckeye Hills Regional Council (BHRC) is partnering with Noble County EMA in coordinating the airlift with support from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Appalachian Regional Commission announced on May 12 a grant in the amount of $119,554 to BHRC to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) to front-line home healthcare workers.

Throughout BHRC’s eight-county region of Athens, Hocking, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, Perry, and Washington counties, more than 200 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed with a total of at least 20 confirmed deaths.

With this investment, BHRC will serve 1,945 patients by equipping 39 home healthcare provider agencies throughout the eight-county region. The delivery is anticipated to include 200,000 N95 masks, 20,490 gowns, 4,000 gloves, and 2,500 N95 respirators. Buckeye Hills worked with Global Rapid Response Group to arrange for the airlift of the PPE into Ohio, coordinated with the home healthcare provider companies to identify needs, and accessed the ARC funding. Noble EMA is leading the planning for the distribution of the PPE to the providers, as well as coordinating the means of transporting the supply once it arrives.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, it quickly became clear to us that our region’s home healthcare providers were struggling to find and maintain access to the supplies necessary to keep their employees and the seniors they serve safe in the midst of this pandemic,” said Rick Hindman, BHRC Assistant Executive Director.

Front-line nurses and home health aides routinely enter the homes of elderly persons, those determined to be at the highest health risk if contracting the COVID-19 virus.

“These workers are essential in keeping seniors in their homes and out of hospitals and nursing homes, while also ensuring that persons recently discharged from hospitals are not readmitted,” said Jennifer Westfall, BHRC Aging & Disability Director. “Breaking this cycle of patients transitioning between care settings is essential in preventing the further spread of the virus to the general population and thereby keeping hospital beds free so acute care facilities can maintain the capacity needed to better address the impacts of the pandemic.”

ARC funding for this project is provided through a special ARC regional initiative that targets funds to encourage and support COVID-19 related economic development.

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia and help the region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation. More information is available at  www.arc.gov.

Buckeye Hills Regional Council is a council of governments dedicated to improving the lives of residents in southeast Ohio and is one of Ohio’s 12 designated Area Agencies on Aging, responding to the needs of older adults as advocates, planners, and funders. In southeast Ohio, BHRC provides education, information, and referral services while also working with the public and private sectors to help older adults with home and community-based long-term care. To learn more about Buckeye Hills Regional Council, and for assistance, and referral services, visit  www.buckeyehills.org, call 740-374-9436 or 1-800-331-2644 (toll-free), or email  info@buckeyehills.org.