New program offers ride to recovery groups

Published 11:41 am Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Transportation can be a barrier.

But a few community organizations are working together to pilot a program to breakdown that barrier in Clark County, specifically for people attending recovery programs, behavioral health appointments and more.

Together, UnitedHealthcare (UHC), Calvary Christian Church and Achieving Recovery Together (ART) started the transportation pilot program. The program officially kicked off in August, though talks about starting the program began in April.

Email newsletter signup

“There was all these churches around town that have vans, and there’s all these people who need transportation,” Pastor Mike McCormick said. “Could those vans be repurposed beyond Sunday morning, or whatever the sort of church programming is to be used for the benefit of the community? And so at Calvary, we’re very intentional about wanting to serve the community and break down whatever barriers there are for the community.”

UHC, under its UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Kentucky, provided $10,000 to provide guidance and transportation logistics expertise, support a part-time mobility manager and bus driver, provide insurance, gas, maintenance and more.

Amy Johnston, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Kentucky, said UnitedHealthcare’s mission is to help people live healthier lives and to help make the health system work better for everyone. UHC is tailoring its efforts to support whole person care and the transportation pilot program was one way to further that mission.

“We seek to improve the overall health and well-being of the people we serve and their communities by emphasizing whole person care, including mental, physical and social determinants of health through locally-supported models of care,” Johnston said in a statement. “Transportation is a barrier to care and UnitedHealthcare is addressing this challenge through different avenues, such as providing rides to support meetings, expanding access and reducing barriers to treatment. We are proud to partner with Calvary Christian Church and Achieving Recovery Together to address this need with the transportation pilot program in Winchester.”

McCormick said it is becoming more clear, both in the church and in the community, knowing what services are needed for a person means one has to get to know them.

“We don’t just pick them up on a bus and take them somewhere, there’s a conversation that’s happening with that person,” McCormick said.

ART Executive Director JuaNita Everman said a transportation assistant will be on each ride and will collect data to assess who is using the program, why they’re using it and more.

At the end of the pilot program, which will be in about six months, Everman said the community partners will use the data to determine if the transportation program needs to be a permanent resource in Clark County.

“If it proves to be a legitimate need, then we’ll be looking for funding to continue it as well,” McCormick added.

The relationship started at a UHC community forum event, and McCormick wanted to do more in the community and approached UHC.

“This, I think, is another example of different organizations who wouldn’t normally work together, but are coming together because they have a common cause,” McCormick said.

Through discussions, the organizations agreed transportation was a need and Calvary happened to have some church vans available. McCormick said he jumped on the opportunity because it was a way for Calvary to further its community impact, as Calvary strives to do its best to help the community.

People can use the transportation program if they are attending recovery meetings, medicated-assisted treatment programs or behavioral health or mental health appointments. Everman said the van is not available to people needing to attend regular doctor appointments, physical therapy, etc.

Interested riders must call 859-385-5017 about 24 hours in advance; though if someone has medicaid and are in need of transportation to a clinic appointment, Medicaid offers transportation to its recipients, Everman said, so she will direct some people to that service if necessary.

Once the interested rider, who must be 18 and older, knows if they are eligible for the ride, Everman said the rider must confirm the time of pick-up and the time of their appointment and that information will be forwarded to the transportation captain to plan their route for the following day.

Riders must also indicate if they want a one-way trip to their appointment or if they also want a ride after the appointment.

While on the van, the transportation assistant may give riders resources about recovery support group meetings and other resources.

“What we’re doing here is trendsetting for the nation right now on health care,” McCormick said. “And the idea that an insurance company is willing to partner with the church. And the church is willing to partner with a community partner. To say that hey, none of us can provide the single solution all on our own. But if we work together…we’re better together.”

Everman said reliable transportation is something some people take for granted. If people don’t have a way to get to and from support groups, medical appointments, counseling and more, then they can’t successfully navigate the road to recovery, she said.

“This is removing a barrier,” Everman said. “Resources are there, but people can’t access them. And if they could access that stuff, if they could, consistently, have that level of support all around them, then they would have the best shot of being successful, staying in recovery and living a life that gives back to the community and makes a difference.”

About Lashana Harney

Lashana Harney is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. Her beats include schools and education, business and commerce, Winchester Municipal Utilities and other news. To contact her, email or call 859-759-0015.

email author More by Lashana