Lyle Land, a lead driver for National Church Residences, is with Brenda Thomas, a client who is going to the Belmont Dialysis Center.
Transportation is a pressing need in Eastern Ohio, and efforts to coordinate transportation providers for the greater convenience of the public will be made in the coming months.
The first meeting of Belmont County’s transportation service providers for the purpose of coordinating services and sharing information was held Thursday. Organizations represented included the National Church Residences, Senior Services of Belmont County, Belomar Regional Council, the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association, the Neffs Fire Department and the Area Agency on Aging.
“(We talked about) how to better coordinate our services among all of us to meet the transportation needs of the county,” Mike McBride, transportation administrator for Belmont County Senior Services, said.
He added that the presentation included information about grant opportunities.
“How to get the ball rolling — we reviewed the progress of the surrounding counties, McBride said. “Everybody’s developing a coordinated transportation plan. Ours is in. Several other counties are in different stages of the process.”
Early in August 2018, the Belmont County Board of Commissioners approved an updated public transportation plan presented by OMEGA, superceding the 2008 plan. The new plan specified the current transportation needs of county residents and called for monthly meetings among providers to determine how to meet those needs. The first meeting addressed some of those options.
“We discussed possibly standardizing the software that all the agencies use,” McBride said. “Everything is just in preliminary discussion modes right now. We’re just discussing things, throwing around ideas, trying to see where everybody’s at, what everybody’s needs are.”
The plan’s data indicated senior citizens represent one group with transportation needs. Another group includes students requiring a means of attending school or training.
“We’re working on increasing the transportation opportunities in the county to people. We’re working on transporting to higher education, transporting to work-study programs for high school students,” McBride said. “Everything’s really preliminary right now. No one’s even submitted a letter of intent or anything. We’re just hashing it out.”
They discussed possible transportation-related grants through Gulfport Energy and the Ohio Department of Transportation, as well as the possibility of sharing maintenance on vehicles.
“The main focus for the meeting is for us to be able to network and drop barriers,” Peggy Hickenbottom, director of transportation with National Church Residences, said. “Not identifying that we have a county line, not identifying that we have a state line, that resources should be available to those who are in need and being able to bring Senior Services, being able to bring senior providers in, our (Area Agency on Aging), bringing all the resources together. Belomar, having them at the table, having ODOT at the table, makes a lot of sense with being able to create the resources we need.”
She also hopes to work with ODOT toward creating common credentials for drivers.
(Adapted article from The Times Leader, September 16, 2018 by Robert A. DeFrank)