GENESEE COUNTY — Getting to the doctor has become an easier task for many locals, thanks to the Mass Transportation Authority’s Rides to Wellness program.
Since its launch in September 2016, the MTA’s medical transportation service has helped Flint and Genesee County residents get a ride to their medical appointments.
Now in its second year, the program is showing signs of substantial growth. According to the MTA, Rides to Wellness has shown a 69 percent ridership increase from August 2017 to August 2018, representing a climb from 48,000 clients to 86,000.
Ed Benning, General Manager/ CEO of the MTA, said that innovative approaches and increased partnerships have been key to boosting the program’s popularity.
“We offer same day service and arrival within 30 minutes for pre-certified clients,” he said. “We’ve also increased activity with medical service providers in the community.”
Rides for Wellness is partnered with several area agencies and medical providers, such as Genesee Health Plan, the Valley Area Agency on Aging and the Genesys PACE program.
Operating on an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule, the MTA works with its partners to arrange for drivers to pick up clients at their homes and drop them off at appointments. Rides to Wellness drivers can also transport people to the pharmacy or grocery store.
“Well over 50 percent of our clients pick up prescriptions and groceries after an appointment,” Benning said.
Starting with just five cars in 2016, the program now features a 50-vehicle fleet comprised mostly of Chevy Impalas and Equinoxes. In anticipation of more growth, the MTA is aiming to expand their fleet to 150 by next year.
By 2019, the MTA expects Rides to Wellness to service 1,000 passengers a day and around 10,000 a month.
Benning said that the program’s overall growth reveals a critical need for medical transportation in the community.
“Many people are canceling appointments because they lack transportation or rely on someone else to get them to the doctor,” he said. “In turn, doctors are losing patients as a result of people not showing up.
“As they become more aware of the services we offer, patients and doctors are coming on board with the program,” he added.
Along with expansion of service, the MTA is planning to launch a new app that will allow clients to book directly with its drivers. Currently, clients have to call the program’s coordinators, who will then arrange for a vehicle to be dispatched.
Rides for Wellness will also be providing veterans with transportation for day trips to VA hospitals in Saginaw and Ann Arbor. The service, which is set to start within the next 30 days, will be open to veterans in Genesee, Lapeer and Shiawassee counties.
To find routes and transportation sites in the Rides to Wellness program, visit mtaflint.org/rides-to-wellness. html or contact MTA customer service at 810-767-0100.