The need for medical transportation on Deer Isle is acute. In a 2014 survey among affiliates and partners of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, 42% of respondents identified transportation as an issue preventing access to healthcare in Hancock County, behind only lack of insurance and out of pocket expenses. The 2015 Maine Shared Community Health Needs Assessment identified transportation first among the “top five factors” affecting health in Hancock County.
After a careful consideration of options, IH&WF concluded that the most effective initial approach to medical transportation would be to partner with an existing group, Friends in Action (FIA), an Ellsworth-based 501(c)(3) organization that offers free services, including transportation, to residents of Hancock County. IH&WF and FIA collaborated to establish FIA-DIS, an FIA satellite office in Stonington. In addition to providing training and insurance for a local transportation coordinator and volunteers, FIA brought to the table the ability to efficiently match “clients” needing rides with available volunteer drivers, using a database that records, in advance of client requests for rides, the circumstances of each client and the availability of each volunteer.
Recently, IH&WF and FIA decided to structure a different working relationship that will allow IH&WF to focus on medical transportation solely. Towards this end, IH&WF is exploring various ways to fill the local Transportation Coordinator position. We will keep you updated on our progress.
In the interim volunteer drivers that IH&WF helped develop will continue to transport those who need rides for medical purposes on and off the Island. As Jo Cooper, Executive Director of FIA said:
Friends in Action would like to express our deep appreciation to the Island Health & Wellness Foundation for its support in the past two years. Together we have developed a strong, local base of volunteers who are willing and eager to help their Island neighbors with free transportation to medical appointments, both on and off the Island. In many situations, lack of transportation prevents access to healthcare of any kind. With the support of the Island Health & Wellness Foundation, the Island Medical Center has become a strong community-centered healthcare facility. The Foundation has had the foresight to realize that, without transportation, healthcare, however excellent, is not available to many people, particularly older and disabled people. Friends in Action is very thankful that the Island Health & Wellness Foundation has partnered with us to better address the transportation needs of Island residents, and that, through this partnership, we have been able to help an additional 52 people that we were not helping.