Since expanding service more in-depth into Lewis County this year, drivers with the Volunteer Transportation Center of Jefferson County have traveled 13,000 miles in Lewis County alone.
In the months before the March expansion, volunteers drove clients only to dialysis appointments in Lewis County and traveled 1,700 miles there, Executive Director Samuel M. Purington said. Since the expansion, which includes all medical appointments and monthly grocery trips, the monthly mileage in Lewis County now reaches upward of 4,000 miles.
Mr. Purington said hundreds of people in Lewis County who otherwise might have no transportation may now use the Volunteer Transportation Center as a last resort.
Theres a certain point where people shouldnt drive due to their health condition, and the availability of family and friends isnt there, he said. The choice is then to go without care and eventually call an ambulance. Were trying to keep them ahead of that.
Mr. Purington said that since there is a public transportation program in Lewis County, the Volunteer Transportation Center is trying to fill voids. The center has also become a partner.
Last year, the agency entered into a contract with the Lewis County Department of Social Services to take Medicaid clients to appointments. Lewis County Office for the Aging clients also are served via the Transportation Center.
Mr. Purington said hes estimated a total of 42,000 miles will be logged in Lewis County this year, compared with more than 300,000 miles in Jefferson County.
He said there are 38 volunteer drivers in Lewis County, and hes always looking for more. More drivers are needed particularly in the Croghan area and near the Boonville line. Drivers are reimbursed by the mile. Anyone in Lewis County who is willing to volunteer will not be turned down, he said.
For Lowville, being in a central location is easy to branch out, Mr. Purington said. Some drivers drive every day, while other drivers drive at their own convenience. Its a volunteer situation, so its up to them how they work it.
There is no difference in how the centers Jefferson and Lewis programs operate.
Mr. Purington said the agency will track mileage and the number of trips and drivers, among other statistics, in Lewis County throughout 2012 to get an accurate idea as to how the program is working out there.
Sustainment of the program will depend on the continued need for volunteer transportation service and funding.
The agency received a $10,500 annual contract from the Lewis County Office for the Aging, $5,000 from the Pratt Northam Foundation, $5,000 from the Northern New York Community Foundation and $5,000 from the United Way of Northern New York toward the Lewis expansions startup costs. Funding beyond the first year is still being worked on, Mr. Purington said. Direct-mail campaigns and fundraising efforts that exist in Jefferson County also will take place in Lewis County.
While it takes about $200,000 annually to fund mileage costs in Jefferson County, Mr. Purington said, he expects that figure to be about $40,000 in Lewis County.
If the agency can maintain a Jefferson County program while expanding into and maintaining a Lewis County program, Mr. Purington said, the prospect of expanding into St. Lawrence County is likely.
For more information, or to become a volunteer driver in either county, call the agency at 788-0422.