Easing the transportation burden for behavioral health

Getting the necessary treatment and recovery support for those seeking help for a mental health or substance abuse disorder can be challenging, if you don’t have access to reliable transportation.

This is especially true in rural areas, where there can be a lack of public transit systems, longer distances to appointments and a need for improved infrastructure.

Take Clark County, Kentucky — where opioid misuse and addiction is prevalent. According to state health records, Clark County had the fourth highest per capita rate of overdose deaths in the state in 2018.

“Our mission is helping people get into recovery and also stay in long-term recovery,” said Juanita Everman, executive director of Achieving Recovery Together, a local nonprofit focused on helping address addiction within the community “And to do that you have to get to your appointments.”

When clients were asked, “How many appointments have you missed due to lack of transportation?” the answer was startling. Ninety percent had missed three or more appointments in the previous 30 days.

A local church, Calvary Christian, recognized an opportunity to help. The church had vans that were sitting idle during the week and in a conversation with UnitedHealthcare suggested working alongside a strong local partner, Achieving Recovery Together. UnitedHealthcare provided Calvary Christian a $10,000 grant to cover the cost of insurance and gas.The funding also allowed Achieving Recovery Together to bring in a part-time mobility manager, a driver and peer support specialists. These peer support specialists have also been in recovery, and ride along with the clients — providing crucial connection and support.

So far, the program has been a success. Since the beginning of the program there have been 132 rides given to 80 individuals for everything from rehab placements, appointments for medication and behavioral health, and support group meetings. There is hope to expand the transportation offering to reach more people who need it.

“We really want to walk alongside our partners when we do community investment,” said Whitney Allen, community engagement manager for UnitedHealthcare.

When support for behavioral health and access to transportation come together, more can be achieved to help people on the road to recovery.

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