Report finds that in rural Utah lack of transportation is a medical issue

Nov. 2, 2018

State organizations are slow to make progress

Utah Public Radio’s series, Diagnosis, has seen a trend among rural residents in Utah who cannot affordably seek medical treatment due to transportation limitations. The state’s Urban-Rural Specialized Transportation Association has been working to address the disparity between need and availability, but progress has been slow, and according to the report, those in need are caught in the middle.

"There's a great need for both seniors and people with disabilities who can't access transportation," Ryan Taylor, who serves as co-vice president on the Utah Urban-Rural Specialized Transportation Association, or URSTA, told Utah Public Radio (UPR). "Utah is unique in that we don't have a dedicated state funding stream for specialized transportation."

Taylor went on to describe a pilot program that will begin in January 2019 in partnership with the Utah Division of Aging and Adult Services that will allow people to arrange for drivers on their own—drivers who will then receive a “modest reimbursement” for services rendered.

This sounds like a small-scale version of a TNC operation, but many residents remain concerned that the costs will exceed their ability to pay—and the onus on the ill to make their own arrangements, rather than being able to access a system in place for them, is likewise troubling.

Nonethless, Taylor told UPR that the organization is hopeful for the results of the pilot. "Down in southeastern Utah, in Washington County near St. George, in Emery County, the Uintah Basin and up in Bear River area, we will all in 2019 be doing demonstration projects," Taylor said. "There's funding there for individuals to go out and to find their own driver, it could be a neighbor or a friend, will drive them to their medical visit, to the doctor, or to the pharmacy to get a prescription. And that person will get a really modest reimbursement for those trips that they make."

The full report, along with personal accounts from Utah residents can be found here.

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