Fayette Area Coordinated Transportation changes coming
Author: Mark Hoffmann
Source: Daily Courier
Date: February 27, 2012
Fayette Area Coordinated Transportation will make some changes to its medical service programs because of a statewide shortage of funds.
The Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association announced that at least 30 transit systems in the state will run short on Medical Assistance Transportation funds to ensure service to some of the population's most vulnerable. The shortfall will result in reduced or eliminated transportation service before the state fiscal year ends on June 30.
As the state continues to face budgetary constraints and reductions in federal assistance, many human service programs are dealing with smaller budgets, including FACT.
"We are preparing in Fayette for a complete shutdown of MATP (Medical Assistance Transportation Program) shared ride service with the exception of dialysis and chemotherapy trips, beginning April 1," said Lori Groover-Smith, FACT director. "This elimination will affect about 6,500 trips per month, including transporting individuals to doctor's appointments, prenatal care, pharmacies and many other life-sustaining needs. The industry is very concerned about what will happen to these individuals."
Groover-Smith said another change will be FACT no longer using subcontractors, so instead of someone being picked up by an organization's transportation service, they will be picked up by a FACT vehicle.
To return the services to what they were, Groover-Smith said it would cost $350,000 in funding for only three months.
MATP is not exempt from the reduction. Most counties saw an 18 percent decrease in funds this fiscal year.
"With demand and costs to provide service increasing, such as fuel, it seems funding is moving in the wrong direction," PPTA Director Martha Pierce said.
While the MATP funding will be cut short in Fayette, Groover-Smith said FACT will continue providing fixed routes and anyone who qualifies for a medical voucher can ride the fixed routes for free.
"That will definitely increase," said Groover-Smith, adding that it is already gaining in popularity. FACT conducts 400 trips a month for people with medical vouchers traveling to the doctor or the pharmacy.
Another option for riders no longer able to take advantage of MATP -- they may be able to qualify for an Americans with Disabilities Act program, where they can ride the fixed routes for a small co-pay. Also, Chestnut Ridge Counseling was added as a stop on the fixed route.
Groover-Smith said everything else with FACT will remain the same. She hopes more riders will take advantage of the fixed routes in the absence of MATP. The fixed routes still stop at senior-citizen high rises, professional plazas, hospitals and doctor offices.
While it will take an adjustment for those who go from the shared rides to the fixed routes, Groover-Smith said the changes will not be an abandonment of riders. "We have a lot of people doing it already."
PPTA Board Chairman David Kilmer explained that the MATP funding shortfall does not come to the transit industry by surprise.
"Due to program changes in the mid '90s, we have been watching the costs to deliver the service climb sharply across the state," he said. "The transit industry has been working closely with the PA Department of Public Welfare since before the new budget was enacted to find solutions and enact cost-saving measures through program changes in hopes of avoiding such a shutdown of service."
The PPTA supports its members through advocating for public transportation and mobility management in the commonwealth. For more information on PPTA, visit www.ppta.net.
Anyone interested in inquiring about medical vouchers or the ADA program, may call FACT for more information at 1-800-321-RIDE.