By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Low-income seniors living in the area now have another transportation option for non-emergency medical trips.
Those who qualify for TransMed can be given a free ride from their home to a physician’s office, medical facility or pharmacy within a 10- to 15-mile radius of Poway Adult Day Health Care Center.
The program serves Poway, Rancho Bernardo, 4S Ranch, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Sabre Springs and Rancho Penasquitos. Also within its geographical parameters are Ramona, Scripps Ranch and Mira Mesa.
For example, rides are available to Pomerado Hospital in Poway and medical offices surrounding it, officials said. Qualifying needs include going to visit a doctor, dentist, medical specialist or physical therapist; needing to have blood drawn, X-rays or other diagnostic testing or therapy; filling a prescription at a pharmacy; and trips for nutritional needs related to a chronic medical condition.
Rides are available between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Reservations are required and same day travel cannot be guaranteed. To schedule, call the trip hotline at 858-449-5366 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Riders must be 60 or older and meet income qualifications before the first trip can be reserved. Tara Guggino, TransMed’s transportation coordinator, said riders’ adjusted monthly income should be at or below $1,696 per month, which is 135 percent of the 2012 federal poverty level of $15,079 per year.
Applicants might be asked for proof of income eligibility, such as a Medi-Cal card or other government program, but they will not go through an extensive proof of income process, said Lois Knowlton, whose work on obtaining funding from San Diego Association of Governments via its TransNet Senior Mini Grant made the new TransMed program possible for the next two years.
Knowlton, who founded the nonprofit Friends of Adult Day Health Care Centers and is TransMed’s program director, said the $100,000 annual grant includes a requirement that $35,000 of it come from in-kind donations.
The program is using the Poway Adult Day Health Care Center’s wheelchair-accessible vans and buses, which during the daily four-hour window are typically not in use by center participants, Knowlton said.
Drivers pick up and return riders to their homes, assist them with getting on and off the bus, and walk them through the door to their appointments. Riders may also have a caregiver or escort ride for free.
Knowlton said there is a need in the Inland Corridor for door-to-door transportation for seniors with mobility or cognitive issues, which is why she pursued grant funding to create the program.
“Our public transportation does not serve the frail, elderly or those needing mobility help,” Knowlton said.
There are some other volunteer-based assistance programs in the area, such as Rides & Smiles, which often requests locals volunteer as drivers because of the many rides requested for not only medical-related trips, but to run errands. Other programs, such as Direct Access to Regional Transportation (DART) run by Metropolitan Transit System, were discontinued several years ago.