Health and Welfare director talks about mobility issues
Health and Welfare Director Richard Armstrong spoke to a group of statewide transportation planners last week about the importance of maintaining and improving access to transportation for the thousands of vulnerable Idahoans served by the department.
“Many of our customers are unable to provide their own transportation, whether it’s to a medical appointment or the new job that is going to help a struggling family get back on its feet,” said Armstrong. “Transportation is the key to independence for many of our customers.”
Public transportation providers and organizations responsible for ensuring that mobility services are available statewide met as part of the Mobility Idaho 2008 conference in Boise last week.
The group is concerned with making sure that Idahoans in both urban and rural areas have access to transportation.
The department’s role can be to help transportation planners identify the transportation needs of the clients we serve.
Medicaid pays about $18 million annually to provide transportation for medical emergencies and non-emergency medical and therapeutic appointments. Access to this transportation helps our customers live in the community, reducing the cost of caring for this population while at the same time increasing their quality of life, said Armstrong.
“It’s much less expensive to maintain someone in their home than it is to put them in a residential care facility,” said Armstrong. “In some cases, the cost is cut roughly in half.”
While the over-65 population doesn’t account for a significant part of the department’s spending on transportation now, Armstrong warned that this will change as Baby Boomers age and lose their ability to drive.
“That age group makes up 12 percent of the population now,” said Armstrong. “By 2020, it will make up 25 percent of Idaho’s citizens. I have a feeling we haven’t begun to see the impact this population is going to have on long term care and transportation needs.”
Armstrong said planning to improve transportation for this population and other groups that don’t have ready access to automobiles will have to happen at the local level. The department’s regional directors can help identify the needs in each community.
“The challenge moving forward is for all of us to continue looking for ways at the local, community level to leverage resources,” said Armstrong. “Our goal is to ensure our customers can get to where they need to be to achieve self-reliance and maintain independence.”