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Chatham Council on Aging grants help expand transportation services

By Debra J. Henzey
Posted Friday, November 15, 2013

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Pittsboro, NC - "The shortage of affordable transportation is an ongoing challenge in Chatham County, with a large geographic area and needs spread well beyond county lines," said Angel Dennison, executive director of the Council on Aging. "We are very pleased to obtain a new grant to help us better serve our community."

Dennison said the proposal by the Chatham County Council on Aging was positively reviewed by the federal, state and local governments and then approved, resulting in more funding for transportation services for elderly and disabled residents.

The services will be provided in partnership with Chatham Transit Network, according the Chris Carter, transportation coordinator for the Council. "We can serve people with critical health needs who have no other means of transportation," Carter said.

For several years, the Council has operated Project Health Rides under a grant from the NC Department of Transportation (DOT). This program provides medical transportation for older and disabled adults who do not receive transportation services from other entities.

By working with Chatham Transit Network, the grant funding from DOT covers operational costs, with the exception of a $2 fee per individual ride or leg of a trip paid by the rider.

Round-trip medical transportation is available for eligible riders to and from home to appointments throughout the region. While the program had been limited to two trips per month per rider, the additional funding available through June 30, 2014 will raise the cap to four trips a month per rider.

Dennison reminds interested residents that they may be asked to provide proof of eligibility, such as age or disability, prior to arranging the transportation services.

A second source of funding will meet two major needs, including serving residents who need life-sustaining treatments, such as dialysis or cancer treatments, at area health care facilities several times a week or month. The grant from the Elderly and Disabled Transportation Assistance Program goes to the Council on Aging through Chatham County and the NC DOT and services are provided by Chatham Transit Network.

This special funding can be used three times a month per individual. One additional person, such as a family member or aide, can ride along at no extra charge.

In combination with Project Health Rides, this special service means that qualified residents can get up to four general and three treatment medical transportation trips per month. This program requires the signature of the rider validating the sheet provided by the driver.

This special medical transportation is available to people who can drive at least partway as well as those who can't drive at all. For people who can drive partway, pickup sites will be arranged to reduce the cost of the van travel and extend the program's funding.

For example, if a rider can drive to one of the senior centers (Pittsboro and Siler City) or the Walmart in Siler City, a Chatham Transit van can be arranged to pick up at those sites.

"The special medical program will be offered until the funding is spent," said Dennison. "We expect the funding to last through May or June."

In addition to special medical needs transportation, some of the Elderly and Disabled Transportation Assistance funds are allocated to a general transportation program for older adults and adults with disabilities who have no other transportation options. Purposes include general shopping, personal errands (such as pharmacy pickup), personal travel to the library, volunteer opportunities, and travel for caregivers and their care recipients.

Eligibility for this program is limited to county residents who live beyond the Chatham Transit Network's general transportation service areas in Pittsboro and Siler City.

"This program is intended to serve those who do not drive or caregivers who take their care recipients along with them," Dennison said. This program also requires the signature of the rider validating the trip sheet provided by the driver. Riders are charged $5 per trip for up to two riders and trips are limited to two per individual per month.

Reservations for all Council-funded transportation must be made through the Council on Aging no later than 11 am on the day before the trip. Late reservations cannot be accommodated by the transit system's vehicles and driver schedules.

If you have any questions or want to make reservations, please contact Chris Carter about medical rides or Brett Moraes about personal transportation. Both can be reached at 919-542-4512 or by email.

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Chatham Council on Aging grants help expand transportation services

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