MASSENA — The St. Lawrence County program director for the Volunteer Transportation Center said she would like to get the word out about the services they offer.
Christine Richardson presented an overview of their program to the Massena Town Council.
“I’m just letting you know that our services are available and what we do. We are in Massena a lot. Massena is one of our bigger customers. We probably have about 10 to 15 drivers that live here in Massena. We have clients here every day,” she said.
The Volunteer Transportation Center is a nonprofit group in St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis counties. In St. Lawrence County, Ms. Richardson said it’s about halfway between Canton and Potsdam. The drivers are volunteers who use their own vehicles and are only reimbursed for their mileage.
“They’re true volunteers. We don’t pay them,” she said.
She said part of their mission is to provide transportation for Medicaid clients. They also have a “charity group” for those who don’t have Medicaid. But, Ms. Richardson stressed, they are not a taxi service and are not part of the Department of Social Services.
“A lot of people don’t know that we’re out there. A lot of people think that, number one, we’re a taxi and we’re not, and number two, that we’re DSS drivers and we’re not DSS drivers,” she said.
They do stay busy with their Medicaid and charity care trips, Ms. Richardson said.
“Yesterday we had 16 Medicaid trips. That’s without our charity care trips,” she said.
Grant funding allows them to assist Medicaid clients who need to do things that won’t be paid for by Medicaid. For instance, she said, if they have physical therapy sessions and Medicaid will only cover so many appointments, the grant will pay for them to go to the remainder of their appointments.
In Massena, she said they also work with members of 39 Serenity Place, a Massena clubhouse for recovering addicts and alcoholics.
“They all gather at this clubhouse. We would pick them up at their homes and take them to the clubhouse with this grant so they’re not alone,” Ms. Richardson said.
They’ll take Medicaid patients to doctor visits and even grocery shopping if it’s needed.
“We can provide grocery shopping for them once a month,” she said. “We will take anybody anywhere they need to go. We have taken people to Syracuse, Burlington, Boston and Philadelphia. You name it, we’ve taken them there.”
The grant funding that allows them to provide those services is running out, “but we are using it to our best ability,” she said. “Today I looked and we had accepted 2,200 individual trips using that money. Those are all just Medicaid clients going places that they need to go to help their well-being that Medicaid wouldn’t pay for.”
They don’t charge charity clients, but they do let them know that donations are always appreciated “because that’s how our program is run. We also do a lot of fundraising. We just did a mac and cheese cook off. We do a golf tournament every year. We do a bowling tournament. We try to do all kinds of interesting things to get the community involved to raise funds to be able to take people on these trips,.
More information is available on their website, volunteertransportation.org, or by calling their office at 315-714-2034.