Oregon’s Highly Rural Transportation Program, a federal, state and local partnership helping meet the transportation needs of veterans in rural areas, has logged over 500,000 miles in its first two years of operation.
Veterans who were served by this program were transported all over the Pacific Northwest to see doctors and receive medical care. The grants are implemented through local transportation entities.
Grant County is serviced through the People Mover, which goes to Bend, Redmond, Pendleton, Walla Walla, Burns, Baker City and Boise.
Angie Jones, the transportation manager at the People Mover, said the program has been extremely helpful for veterans all over the county.
“We’ve been able to get Grant County residents to any kind of medical appointment, including pharmacy, for free,” she said.
The $50,000 in grant funds is helpful, but it doesn’t get the People Mover all the way there.
“Usually by the 10th month, we’re using general funds,” Jones said. “It’s a limited amount of money, but it’s a valuable service, so we would rather dip into our general operating instead of cutting services.”
Bob Stewart of John Day served in the Marine Corps and describes the service as “an absolute blessing.”
“They come here. They pick me up. They take me where I want to go,” Stewart said. “Seeing as how I’m a veteran, I can go to the doctor, to home health, to any kind of medical thing.”
The program is federally funded by annual grants from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and administered by the state and partner agencies. The program helps veterans in 10 participating counties who often do not have adequate access to medical care in their communities. Each of Oregon’s 10 highly rural counties can receive up to $50,000 a year. A highly rural county is classified as having less than seven residents per square mile. The 10 in the state are Baker, Gilliam, Grant, Lake, Harney, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Wallowa and Wheeler, according to the Oregon Department of Veteran Affairs. Each county has received the maximum funding allotment.
From October 2014 to September 2016, a total of 529,199 miles were logged, roughly half of the nationwide total reported by Oregon and all the other states participating in the VA-funded program.
Oregon’s drivers tracked over 9,000 trips, spent over 20,000 hours on the road and served 2,279 veterans during that time.
“This program’s success is directly due to the outstanding management of each county’s transportation system and their ability to creatively transport veterans by partnering with other transportation networks and overcoming weather, distance and other adverse circumstances,” Mitch Sparks, ODVA’s director of statewide veteran services, said.
To access the veteran program through People Mover, veterans will need to present a DD214 showing honorable discharge, a VA Medical Benefit Card or Oregon driver’s license showing veteran status.
For more information, contact the People Mover at 541-575-2370 or visit grantcountypeoplemover.com.