Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

Blue Ridge Health wins national recognition for migrant outreach

SEATTLE — Western North Carolina’s own Federally Qualified Health Center, Blue Ridge Health, was recently honored by the National Association of Community Health Centers as the 2023 “Outstanding Migrant Health Center” in the nation.

Chief Medical Officer MaryShell Zaffino and Vulnerable Populations Manager Kenett Melgar accepted the award at the national Conference for Agricultural Worker Health in Seattle. Blue Ridge was the only health center in the country to receive this honor.

“Blue Ridge Health is proud to be recognized for 60 years of service to migrant farmworkers and their families,” said the agency's CEO, Dr. Richard Hudspeth.
Rooted in humble beginnings in migrant care through the work of founder Claire Burson and numerous volunteers, Blue Ridge Health earned the award through “demonstrated excellence and innovation in service delivery” through its longstanding migrant farmworker programming. Established in 1963, these services have continued to expand and have impact, with last year’s efforts supporting 2,402 agricultural workers and their families as they passed through the mountain region harvesting apples, blueberries, Christmas trees, tomatoes and more. Blue Ridge Health workers seek out and connect with these traveling communities, learn their migrant culture and work to provide for their basic needs.

Migrant populations often face significant barriers to receiving proper healthcare and support in their communities due to social stigma and financial burdens. The Blue Ridge Outreach team attempts to lessen these barriers to healthcare by providing medical care and mobile clinics, transportation assistance, interpreters, medical education, and more.
“At Blue Ridge Health, we want to overcome these barriers so everyone has the chance to receive quality, compassionate healthcare,” Hudspeth said. “Through these barriers, we see opportunities to serve our community in the community, to bring affordable care right into the field for migrant workers and their families.”
Migrant agricultural workers are vital to the North Carolina economy and help provide food for families’ tables, and yet their average salary is less than $20,000 per year. From Blue Ridge Health’s very beginnings through today, it is committed to offering dedicated support to migrant farmworker populations and their families.

Paloma Hernandez, chair-elect of the NACHC, praised Blue Ridge's migrant farmworker outreach staff.

“In a world that is increasingly beset with problems and tragedy, they inspire us by the example they set, their belief that we can become a more compassionate and just society – if we all do our part,” she said.