The Standard Journal

Counties looking to test ride share program includes Polk

- Rome News-Tribune

A three- county pilot transporta­tion program based in Rome could help senior citizens remain independen­t and in their own homes longer, if funded in the state’s 2018 budget.

“They may not have a vehicle, may not be physically able to drive anymore or have family close enough to help out,” said Lynne Reeves, director of the Area Agency on Aging based at the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission.

“That interferes with their ability to get to medical appointmen­ts and to the grocery store to refill prescripti­ons,” she explained.

The proposed program would be available to seniors in Floyd, Chattooga and Polk counties. The AAA would contract with TransDev in Rome to provide rides to appointmen­ts and other places of care. The senior would likely pay $3 a trip, with the AAA paying the balance.

“It would be like an Uber or single trip,” Reeves said. “But we hope we’ll be able to get more shared rides and be able to provide more trips.”

They’re asking f or $250,000 to finance the pil ot f or about a year. Reeves said that would fund an estimated 6,250 one-way trips and help about 130 people. Handi- cap-accessible vehicles would be available as needed.

“Rome is a medical hub for this area of Georgia and access to healthcare services for seniors is critical,” the proposal states.

Kathy Floyd, executive director of the Georgia Council on Aging, made the case for funding this week to the human resources subcommitt­ee of the House Appropriat­ions Committee.

But Floyd wants $750,000 in the state budget, so the Rome proposal also could be tested in two other regions.

“The rest of the money would be for two other pilot programs, since no one community is completely representa­tive of all areas of the state,” she said. “If we have three, we could begin to understand the different needs and costs.”

The programs would be evaluated continuous­ly to determine the best practices that work on a local level.

Floyd said services for seniors who stay in their own homes run about $2,000 a year, compared to $20,000 a year for those in nursing homes.

The proposal notes that more than 71,000 senior households in Georgia have no car, and 84 percent of residents age 65 and older are ineligible f or Medicaid- f unded nonemergen­cy medical transporta­tion.

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