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Medical transportation vouchers now available
A voucher project is helping local residents with medical transportation. The project is through the Southern Area Agency on Aging’s Mobility Management Department. Brooks Jones (above) manages the department. (Contributed photo)
Monday, January 13, 2014
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
A voucher project is helping low-income people with free or discounted medical transportation, according to Brooks Jones, who manages Southern Area Agency on Aging’s Mobility Management Department.
So far four people have been served through the voucher project, which began in November and will continue through September 2014, Jones said.
In all, 600 books with $30 worth of vouchers can be distributed in the first year, Jones wrote on Mobility Management’s website (http://www.mile1.net/).
The vouchers are for people who do not have access to transportation and do not qualify for medical transportation under Medicaid, according to a news release and Jones. Proof of income and residence must be provided, Jones said. Eligible individuals must be ambulatory (able to move around without a wheelchair), he added.
Four local private transportation providers — Ark of the Lamb Inc., Brim-Stewart Transportation Services, Diversified Medical Transport and Stone Ambulance Service Inc. — accept the vouchers, which are issued to eligible people for transportation to medical appointments, according to Jones and the news release.
Jones said coming back from a medical appointment, if someone has enough vouchers, he or she can go to the grocery store or get a prescription filled. The driver will either wait 10-15 minutes or drop the person off and come back to get him or her, but the latter will require more vouchers, Jones said.
The voucher project is funded by a New Freedom grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, according to the news release.
The Southern Area Agency on Aging’s (SAAA’s) Mobility Management program, which started in February, aims to enhance transportation accessibility and independence in the community through education, coordination and services, according to its website and Jones.
Jones said his first big job in his first several months was to survey medical and transportation providers to determine issues that needed to be addressed and determine what programs needed to be provided or “rearranged.”
When surveys were returned, in addition to a need for a medical transportation program for low-income people, another need cited was a re-entry transportation service, Jones said. “Re-entry is the process of leaving a prison, correctional center or jail and returning to society,” according to the Virginia Department of Social Services website.
Piedmont Community Services provided funding for a three-month pilot program for Mobility Management to provide transportation “for job-related services to returning citizens through a referral basis from parole officers, the (Community) Recovery Program and the work-force center,” according to Jones. Thirty-one unduplicated people were served, he said. “Out of 31, we helped three get jobs and one maintain a job,” Jones said.
“We want to assist you, but we want to assist you to (reach) independence,” he said of the re-entry transportation service.
After funding ran out, “we got 10 to 15 letters from probation, the work-force center and other users begging and asking that the service be brought back,” he said. He added that grant funding will be sought in hopes of resurrecting and expanding the re-entry transportation service in the fall of 2014, with two part-time drivers instead of one and adding transportation to the homeless shelter in Danville and transportation for other needed services, such as substance abuse or mental illness.
“I project we can help at least 60 people in a year. It’s a huge need for it,” he said of re-entry transportation service.
Another program that Mobility Management has been raising money for and will be seeking a fiscal year 2015 New Freedom grant to start is Miles 4 Vets. It would provide wheelchair-accessible transportation to local disabled veterans from their homes to the Veteran Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Salem once a week.
“A veteran myself, I have seen this issue becoming more and more of a demand every day,” Jones wrote on his program’s website. “We have military men and women coming back from overseas with mental and physical disabilities every month and not being provided the adequate services or assistance that they deserve. The Mobility Management program has started raising awareness of this issue through fundraisers and at local events. The community has shown great support for this program.”
Jones said a $25 round-trip fee would be charged for the service, but that amount is less than the travel reimbursement that veterans typically receive from the government for making the trip.