Swiftwater, Monroe County - A program that offers free bus rides to and from doctor visits for people who live in Monroe County looked like it might be reaching its last stops. However, the state stepped in to keep the wheels rolling.
Each year about 2,000 people like Florence Metzgar count on the Monroe County Shared Ride Program to get to the doctor. Metzgar said, "You gotta get to the doctors."
It's especially important for people who don't have cars and live in rural areas. Metzgar said, "If you didn't have it, going out of county you wouldn't make it."
The Monroe County Transportation Authority provides the rides. The Department of Public Welfare pays for them. They are free for people on Medical Assistance. But the free rides were put in jeopardy earlier this year. The Department of Public Welfare was going to cut the Transportation Authority's funding level by about 20%.
Peggy Howarth is the Authority's Executive Director. She said,"For us that meant a difference of $184,000." That combined with rising gas prices was a big concern. Howarth noted, "It is hard with gas prices. We've noticed ridership increases in our fixed and shared ride services beyond this."
But the Transportation Authority found ways to save money. Howarth explained, "Before when clients would need to go to medical providers for example out of county they could go several days of the week. Now we've limited that to one day a week."
The Department of Public Welfare saw the effort and how important the rides are, then decided to increase funding to its original level. Howarth said, "So far they've been successful and it looks like that is going to be the case through the end of the year."
Riders were happy to hear it. Metzgar said, "They need to keep the shared ride or they are going to have a lot of people who are not going to get the medical care that they really need."
The Transportation Authority says its funding for the program is good for this year. But manager aren't sure what will happen next year. That will depend on the state budget.
To find out if you qualify for rides visit www.gomcta.com or call 570-839-6282.