Residents of the New London area will soon have improved access to transportation through the expansion of the “Make the Ride Happen” program, which helps connect community members with transportation options.
“Transportation is a critical social determinant of health, which means it is a condition of the local society that hinders the ability to live to full potential,” says Tracey Ratzburg, ThedaCare Community Health Coordinator. “Transportation has an impact on staying connected to family and friends, getting to medical appointments, accessing medications or groceries, caring for mental health or chronic disease, or even getting to work to remain financially stable – it’s all connected,” explained Ratzburg. “This is why it is so important that we look at factors outside of a person’s physical health that impact their overall health and well-being, and eliminate barriers to achieving health, such as transportation gaps.”
As a health care leader, ThedaCare is dedicated to expanding and improving Population Health, which is shifting the system’s focus from treating people when they are sick to keeping people healthy, wherever they are on their health journey. By understanding each person’s needs, it allows individuals to be proactive in their care, to predict and prevent disease or injury and inspire action that leads to better health.
In 2018, ThedaCare’s New London Community Health Action Team (CHAT) hosted a “plunge” focused on the issue of transportation. A plunge is a day-long event where diverse community members visit multiples places in the community to hear about an issue, such as transportation, from those who are most affected. After the plunge, all come together to identify assets and gaps and co-create solutions that those most affected believe will have the greatest potential for positive change.
Looking at the most recent employment and housing data from the American Communities Survey, Adam Bellcorelli, Transportation Planner at East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, noted that of the 22,305 total households in Waupaca County, nearly 15% face transportation access challenges, either from having no access to a reliable vehicle or more workers than vehicles in the same household. Transportation data and a homegrown survey of residents pointed to the need for more transportation options, especially for those who are working, under 60 or without a disability.
As a result of what was learned on the plunge, the CHAT team proposed a partnership with Make the Ride Happen, a program run by Lutheran Social Services, which was developed in 2004 and currently operates in Outagamie, Winnebago and Calumet counties.
“Make the Ride Happen provides mobility management, which means they have paid staff who know the transportation resources available in the area, and can help people figure out the best, low-cost options for a ride,” said Ratzburg. “This includes coordinating existing services and providers to maximize efficiency and reduce duplication of services. In addition to transportation navigation support, Make the Ride Happen plans to also provide volunteer drivers in the future to assist with rides not available through existing services.”
As a mobility management system, Make the Ride Happen coordinates with local transportation providers and other stakeholders such as Waupaca County programs.
“The county provides ride services for people age 60 and older, and disabled adults 18 years of age and older. ,” explained Melissa Anderson, Waupaca County ADRC Manager. “We also know there is a significant number of people ages 18-59 who do not have access to a vehicle, or don’t have family and friends able to provide transportation.”
Through funding from ThedaCare and other sources, Make the Ride Happen will add a staff person to facilitate the program. ThedaCare has committed $20,000 to fund the program this year, Ratzburg said.
“There are people in the community who simply don’t drive, can’t drive or can’t afford a car, and they need to get to where they need to go,” said Holly Keenan, mobility manager at Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, which operates the Make the Ride Happen program. “We want to provide options for more people in our community, and we believe this is a way to do that.”
According to Keenan, Make the Ride Happen would start with rides for food, medical appointments and employment opportunities. Local employers are also key to providing support for the program.
“Businesses like Tyson are already helping connect employees with rides,” Keenan said. “Additional partnerships may include other businesses, local government entities and cab companies. We believe there will be a positive impact for the community. We are grateful that ThedaCare and the rest of the CHAT members recognize transportation is an obstacle for many people in communities, especially rural areas of Northeast and Central Wisconsin.”
People in the New London area who are currently experiencing a need for transportation, or if you would like to volunteer as a driver can contact:
- Make the Ride Happen, a program of Lutheran Social Services of WI and upper MI call 920.225.1719
- Waupaca County Volunteer Driver Transportation Program (serving Seniors age 60 +, & Adults with Disabilities) call 715.258.6279
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care
Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.