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Miles adding up for free treatment and recovery trips

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Total miles covered are closing in on 200,000 for free trips to substance use treatment and recovery care services in West Virginia provided as part of a partnership between the Bureau for Behavioral Health in the state Department of Health and Human Resources and the West Virginia Public Transit Association which launched earlier this year.

Six months into the service, Jennifer Woodall, WVPTA president, estimated that mileage out of more than 7,000 trips provided thus far, a number that was continuing to climb when she spoke with MetroNews earlier this week despite earlier slowdowns because of COVID-19.

Providing access to services, “We know it’s so important. It’s so important to the recovery,” Woodall said.

Her organization has been coordinating the free transportation through a statewide shared ride collaborative extending from designated county transit authorities.

Pickups and dropoffs were available in all counties, usually within 24-72 hours of the initial request.

“We’re utilizing all of the resources in the State of West Virginia with public transit in order to get these trips for people,” Woodall said.

Those seeking transportation, including treatment providers, can request it by calling the dispatch center at 1-888-696-6195.

The only requirement was that the person getting a ride be en route to or from a treatment or recovery service, inclusive of evidence-based Medication Assisted Treatment.

Transportation requests were accepted from individuals and treatment providers.

They were available to those in crisis and to people getting more scheduled, routine care.

“We didn’t really go into tickets needed or a special ID or any eligibility requirement because we didn’t want that to be a barrier,” said Melisa Green, state opioid response treatment and recovery program manager for the DHHR’s Bureau for Behavioral Health.

“It’s free and we don’t judge and we want you to use our service.”

Drivers providing the transportation have been medically-trained to connect people with healthcare services.

“These are just a very dedicated group of individuals that really want to help in this opioid crisis and substance use disorder crisis,” Green said.

Costs for the initiative were being covered through West Virginia’s State Opioid Response grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“It’s a phenomenal opportunity for people that live in rural areas of West Virginia who maybe don’t have fixed route service in their area and they need to get to these resources for treatment,” Woodall said.

Green saw a lot of potential in the program.

“My hope is that it grows and, in fact, maybe becomes the No. 1 way for all West Virginians to get help for whatever they need or a ride wherever,” Green said.

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