Accessing health care appointments can be a significant challenge for people with limited mobility and transportation resources. And, when appointments are missed, hospitalizations may beckon for those with serious health issues.
St. Luke’s is helping remove the transportation barrier by partnering with Valley Regional Transit. Over the past two years, St. Luke’s has invested $20,000 to help Valley Regional Transit launch Rides 2 Wellness, a ride service that helps patients get to their medical appointments at local health clinics.
“Rides 2 Wellness is a program to help decrease readmissions into the hospital,” said Kaite Justice, the mobility support coordinator at Valley Regional Transit. “It gets people to their follow-up appointments after they have initially been admitted into the hospital and discharged.”
Valley Regional Transit used grant dollars from St. Luke’s and other organizations to engage matching funds from the Federal Transit Administration. Since launching the program in 2016, Valley Regional Transit has provided more than 7,300 rides to and from medical appointments, free of charge.
“It makes us feel great knowing that we are helping remove a barrier to accessing health care,” Justice said. “It’s a much needed service. There is so much demand and we are barely tapping into that.”
To qualify for a ride, patients must have appointments at a participating clinic. St. Luke’s has 12 participating clinics in Boise and Meridian. The Rides 2 Wellness program is intended for patients with one or more of five diagnoses, including sepsis, congestive heart failure, diabetes, chronic obstruction pulmonary disease and cancer.
“Ride 2 Wellness is set up to be an extension of health care,” Justice said. “People can’t get the care that they need if they can’t get to their appointments.”
Rides 2 Wellness provided more than 3,000 rides since October 2017, with 860 in January alone.
“It’s growing significantly from month to month,” Justice added. “We hope to continue to grow it and be able to meet the needs of the entire community as far as health care access.”
Access to health care was identified as a top priority in St. Luke’s 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment. St. Luke’s director of community relations Theresa McLeod said Rides 2 Wellness continues to tackle one of the social determinates of health.
“St. Luke’s is proud to partner with Valley Regional Transit to help activate this program and ensure our community members have access to the health care they need,” McLeod said.
The St. Luke’s Treasure Valley Community Board recommended funding for Rides 2 Wellness as part of the Community Health Improvement Fund grant program.
“Without the support of St. Luke’s and Saint Al’s, the program never really would have been able to get off the ground. Without their support, it wouldn’t be showing the success that it is, and it wouldn’t be giving this vital service to the community,” Justice said. “Their support means everything for this program.”
The City of Boise and City of Meridian also provide funding. Valley Regional Transit hopes to expand the program into Nampa and Caldwell.To learn more about Rides 2 Wellness and local participating health clinics, visit Valley Regional Transit’s website.
Daniel Mediate works in the St. Luke’s Community Engagement department.