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Overcoming Barriers to Mental Health Access: Transportation

Apr 12, 2022

TransportationOne of the over-arching goals of People Incorporated’s programming is to “improve the quality of life for individuals and families experiencing barriers to mental health and wellness.” One common barrier to providing mental health care for many individuals is transportation.

Transportation barriers can take many forms – some individuals do not have access to transportation without the support of someone who can drive them due to a lack of public or personal transportation. For these individuals, hired transportation such as ride-sharing programs like Uber or Lyft may be financially out of reach.

For some individuals who have their own transportation but are experiencing a mental health crisis, the idea of driving themselves to our crisis centers – even when staff is ready to greet them, and a bed is waiting –can be just too overwhelming.

In 2020, when Minneapolis was experiencing unrest, People Incorporated utilized transportation support to get clients out of unsafe conditions and into crisis programming, when individuals were experiencing both a mental health crisis and threats to their physical safety.

“Some days, it felt like dispatching a hero when you took a call from someone and ordered their Uber ride to get them safely to one of our programs,” says Jennifer Sietsema, one of People Incorporated’s Central Access Contact Center Navigators.

People living in more rural communities also face transportation access issues. In-patient mental health supports are extremely limited in the more rural areas of Minnesota, if available at all. Without a family member or a friend to help support their travel to a program with bed availability, mental health supports remain out of reach.

A ride to one of our crisis centers, treatment programs, or even a therapy appointment may be the critical difference between someone getting the care they need or continuing to struggle with their mental illness. People Incorporated removes this barrier to access by covering the cost of transportation for some clients in need of transportation support. We utilize Uber Health to ensure clients can obtain a safe ride to a mental health program ready to offer them the care they deserve. In 2021, People Incorporated also lifted our 40-mile radius limit in transportation assistance to ensure that individuals in more rural communities with significant barriers to accessing care could obtain critical access to crisis and treatment beds.

Your gift could support our transportation fund when you give it to People Incorporated. People Incorporated spends more than $20,000 on unreimbursed transportation costs each year. Medicare will sometimes cover the cost of transportation using the lowest cost methods possible – typically a bus fare – but this option does not support someone in an acute mental health crisis. Many reimbursements limit the radius an individual can travel, leaving a significant accessibility gap for people living outside the metro area and in rural communities.

2021 alone, People Incorporated 3400 miles of transportation costs – helping individuals from Elk River, Ham Lake, Shakopee, Hastings, Rochester, and throughout the metro get the care they needed when it wasn’t available to them locally. With the added opening of the Steiner Kelting Mental Wellness program in Chaska, MN, which will serve a much more rural clientele, we anticipate this annual expense to grow to more than $25,000 annually. Your gifts to this program ensure people who need care can access the support they need.

To learn more about how People Incorporated’s programs are helping remove barriers to mental health care, visit our News and About Us pages, or make your donation now to remove a barrier to mental healthcare for someone in your community.

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