FLINT — The Mass Transportation Authority of Flint has launched a new health and wellness-related transportation service for area veterans and their spouses.
Vets to Wellness, an expansion of the MTA’s Rides to Wellness program, will offer free door-to-door, same-day or prescheduled transportation to qualifying veterans. Service will be available for local transportation needs such as medical care or grocery shopping, as well as long-distance trips to VA hospitals and facilities in Saginaw, Ann Arbor and Detroit.
“The Mass Transportation Authority appreciates the incredible work that local veterans-serving organizations have done in providing transportation to vets,” said Ed Benning, MTA General Manager and CEO. “We recognize, however, there are still unmet transportation needs for those in this community who have served, and we look forward to meeting those needs and providing world class service for our veterans.”
The MTA, in partnership with the Genesee County Department of Veterans Services, will offer the program to Genesee County veterans who have been honorably discharged. Vets to Wellness itself will receive direct funding from the Genesee County Veterans Millage, and vehicles from the Rides to Wellness fleet will be used to transport veterans.
Each veteran who qualifies for the program will be eligible for up to four free trips per month and will be allowed to have a caregiver accompany them on every trip.
Benning said that the inspiration to develop Vets to Wellness came from conversations he and his staff have had with local veterans and their families—many of whom are struggling to make medical appointments and pick up groceries because they don’t have adequate transportation.
“It’s a real eye opener to understand the plight that people are going through,” he said. “Veterans are the most underserved members of the community.”
Benning said that the MTA will be wellequipped to fill this gap, having already operated the Rides to Wellness program for the past two years.
“We’re living in a time when people are aging in place and are in need of transportation,” he said. “I think it’s incumbent for us as an industry and as a business that we take care of our residents.”
Thomas Larrison, a service officer with the Burton chapter of the Disabled American Veterans, said that the Vets to Wellness program will be a huge aid to local veterans.
“We (the DAV) are only authorized to take people to certain locations, and we can’t pick anyone up at their homes,” he said. “Vets to Wellness will offer a lot of these guys and gals the opportunity to make the appointments that we couldn’t physically take them to.”
Eventually, the MTA is planning to expand the Vets to Wellness service to Lapeer and Shiawassee counties. Benning described this as a phase two plan of the program that would give it a regional outreach.
Veterans and/or their spouses who need transportation must contact the Department of Veterans Services at 810- 257-3068 to establish eligibility.