Belmont County transportation program updated

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

ST. CLAIRSVILLE During Tuesday's Belmont County commissioners meeting, the board heard from David Hacker, Senior Services program coordinator, and Lisa Fijalkowski, DJFS interim director, regarding the TRIPS program. They proposed a continuation of the program, created in 2009, to coordinate a transportation plan, which allowed for grant applications to ODOT and opened the way for other options such as transportation services, software services, vehicles and salaries for coordination services.

Commissioners agreed to update the plan, and in the interest of pursuing those options, the commissioners moved to adopt the third phase of the program, which would be classified as transportation resources individualized planning services (TRIPS).

Possible participants range from veterans to the court system. Transportation requests include medical requests, transportation to work sites and employment. Any inter-county agency may participate.

Fijalkowski added that the funding would mainly come from federal dollars. Each agency will be able to participate and will be responsible for eligibility. She noted the added benefit of allowing the agencies to concentrate on services, while TRIPS will be responsible for transporting individuals in a timely manner.

The program should begin next week, as the agencies conduct meetings to determine how best to share resources and services.

Commissioner Ginny Favede noted the program's value in enhancing the transportation to support employment.

"You do have people who are willing to work that don't have the ability to get to their job," she said, noting that the program will also be invaluable to medical services, older adults, people with disabilities, people with low income, and the general public in the county.

Commissioner Matt Coffland was assured that this program will surpass the gap lost through Medicaid as a funding source during the move of Senior Services.

"This is a much-needed program for our residents," said Commissioner Charles R. Probst, Jr., adding that the program will prove invaluable to veterans' services. "We're going to be able to draw down the federal dollars, and we're going to be able to help offset the senior services levy dollars."

Favede added that this will address issues such as individuals unable to utilize Senior Services vans for non-seniors. However, ODOT's grants allow for the purchase of vehicles at 20 percent of actual cost, including modifications for handicap-accessibility.

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