JOSHUA TREE — Senior and disabled people who can’t drive or access public transportation have a new resource in The Transportation Reimbursement Escort Program, which provides incentive for friends or neighbors to assist eligible individuals by providing necessary, escorted transportation.
Mileage reimbursements, 40 cents per mile, are paid to offset fuel and other out-of-pocket vehicle costs incurred by the volunteer drivers.
This program is the result of a partnership between Vtrans, a nonprofit that administers the program for the County’s Department of Aging and the Morongo Basin Transit Authority.
Transit Authority General Manager Joe Meer explained that the program “helps fill the transportation gaps that exist in the Basin, helping people in inaccessible parts of MBTA’s service area get to town for lifeline services.
“For the very modest amount of money that we commit to the project, it keeps us from having to send the bus out to difficult to reach and unproductive locations and helps us concentrate on doing what we do best-provide efficient mass transportation in the core of our service area.”
Individuals apply for the program and are qualified using the criteria of limited mobility or lack of public transit. Clients are then eligible for a predetermined amount of mileage per month, depending on their particular needs. TREP is available in all rural areas of the County.
For more information about the program or for an application contact: Valley Transportation Services, 299 W. Foothill Blvd, Suite 202, Upland, Calif. 91786, (909) 981-5099.
Michael Hunt is a disabled Twentynine Palms resident. who suffers from a neurological condition and has medical appointments nearly every day. He visits a clinic in Palm Springs several times a week and needs to see his neurologist and therapist as well.
At one point, he traveled more than 100 miles per day to medical appointments.
His In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) worker, Edward, drives him to all his appointments but it is a huge financial burden on Hunt. Since IHSS workers are not paid for their mileage, Hunt had to sacrifice buying his medications because he had to pay Edward for gas.
With the help of the Transportation Reimbursement Program he now is able to get to all his appointments without having to worry that he will not be able to afford his prescriptions. TREP reimburses Michael who in turn reimburses Edward for the miles he drives for Michael.
“It was a godsend financially, because I didn’t know how I was going to get down there every day. It’s been a tremendous help,” Hunt said.
Fortunately, Michael’s doctor recently informed him that his condition was improving and he only has to visit the clinic three times a week instead of daily. Michael hopes that soon these trips will be reduced to once a week.