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Legislature Cuts Transportation Funding for Ride Coordinating System

Legislature Cuts Transportation Funding for Ride Coordinating System

Last year, there were almost 1 million metro rides arranged for the disabled people dwelling near metro area and required transportation for visiting doctor's chamber. They took advantage of a ride-coordinating system sponsored by the state govt.

However, surprisingly the Legislature abolished a funding of about $2.5 million for the company which arranges the rides and it came in effect from 1st July.

As a result, metro counties had only some weeks to fix up the problem and start a new system to let thousand of disable metro-area residents move for frequent doctor visits.

According to Monty Martin, the director of human services for Ramsey County, this is quite difficult for them to arrange a new system, so fast. Previous Ramsey County arranges about 20,000 rides per month. But now the situation has changed and they need at least 10 workers to hire along with an improved telephone system which they currently don't possess to let the people move. They also need a fresh computer system to communicate with the transportation providers.

Not only Ramsey Country, the situation is same for other counties, too.

Jerry Soma, who looks after human resources affairs in Anoka County, informed that Minnesota Department of Human Services contacted them to ask that what telephone number they should provide to the clients for calling. And, she replied that they don't have any.

In a rapid move of unity, 9 out of the 11 counties, which had enjoyed the service proposed to provide temporary funding till they can make out any suitable solution. County boards in Anoka, Hennepin, Ramsey and other counties would consider the matter.

Minnesota Non-Emergency Transportation program that serves 11 county metro localities is under discussion. Roughly 220,000 both physically and mentally disabled people who are registered under Medical Assistance can avail this program. The centralized transportation system was launched in 2005 for making ride-coordination more competent, cheap and user-friendly, as said by the human services executives. They also said that the “dial-a-ride program” for the senior citizens is also in confusion.

According to Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankanto, the chief author of the measure for ending the financial support, the funding for this program was slashed to help maintaining a balance for the human service budget and to slacken dollars for rate hike for out-state transportation services. She said that it was undoubtedly a good service, although not essential at least during this phase of budget insufficiency.

She added that the standard of some of the service providers as well as potential difference of interest with the provider that operated the program were also subjects of concern. Medical Transportation Management, a Missouri based company operated the program along with other programs all across the U.S.

However, the county officials and the officials from the Minnesota Department of Human Services do not agree with Sheren. They notice that many of staffs from Medical Transportation Management can speak different languages and they have an efficient software system to ensure that the correct mileage is owed. They also note that the company offers other useful features to arrange about 85,000 rides per month, most efficiently.

The assistant commissioner for Human Services, Mr. Brian Osberg said that it was a real efficient method to administer transportation and it worked quite well. According to him, they can't understand the need of coming up counties with their plans; while they can do it quiet well through single management.

Osberg said that the Human Service Department once proposed at the time of previous legislative session to expand service to outstate the state of Minnesota. Gov. Tim Pawlenty pulled out the transportation funding cuts as a key area of concern during he signed Human Service in the month of May.

Elizabeth Demski, the office specialist at Minnesota State Disability Council said that persons like her depend on such service. She has been suffering from diabetes, epilepsy, and leukemia and so she has to visit doctors spread around metro-area. So she thinks the service was so useful since it helps them by providing information for coordinating often-complicated routes. Three buses she has to ride on while she goes for an internist visit and it takes over an hour if everything is right. She likes the service since it picks up and drops off her at the doctor's chamber.

However, Joan Willshire, the executive director for the council said that state disability council sometime has got complaints on how some of the clients are treated by the drivers and also some cases of delays. Nevertheless, that's a separate issue than eliminating funding with a short notice.

She said that there wasn't any planning, whatever.

As per the human services department, the expense of continuing the program was almost 5 million USD per year which is shared equally among the federal as well as the state government. But, now the counties are ready to bear the amount for the rest of 2009, until and unless they are able to understand whether or how to design their program.

As for Hennepin County, an estimated amount of 947,000 USD is needed to run the program for the coming six months which is cheaper than recruiting and preparing 17 workers as well as obtaining required computer software system as said by Bill Brumfield, the director for county human services. He mentioned that the counties may get paid half of the expense from Washington. And, according to him, this is a great deal, if somebody is sick and needs to visit a doctor. This is how they can do that.

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