- Author: Laurel Schwartz
- Date: July 11, 2023
In 2015, social worker Kim Garrett worked at the victim’s services unit at the Oklahoma City Police Department. After seeing…
Mobility leaders from around the country gathered in person and virtually to learn about successful cross-sector partnerships that are making transit more equitable.
On May 22, mobility leaders from 38 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and Australia convened in Oklahoma City to learn about cross-sector programs supporting public transit services. Kim Garrett-Funk, Chief Visionary Officer and Founder of Oklahoma City family justice center Palomar gave the opening keynote. “When we come together, we’re so much more powerful for families,” Ms. Garrett-Funk said as she highlighted how her team works with Embark, Oklahoma City’s public transit system, to support clients’ mobility needs.
Coordination Across Sectors to Strengthen Communities
In addition to Ms. Garrett-Funk sharing how Palomar’s partnership with transit organizations supported her team’s work, participants also heard from Cpt. David Wong, M.D., a Lead Community Health Worker (CHW), and Felicia Jones, a Mobility Manager the Veterans Transportation Program.
Dr. Wong, Chief Medical Officer in the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services specifically outlined how the work community health workers do aligns with mobility managers. “You really engage with the partners in the community and find all the folks involved in that space,” Dr. Wong said, referring to the similarities between mobility managers and CHWs. “CHWs do the exact same thing. They just have a bit broader lens because they’re not just looking transportation, they’re looking at all of the social drivers,” he said.
When outlining different opportunities for collaboration, Dr. Wong invited mobility managers to take a CHW training. He also encouraged mobility managers to invite CHWs to community meetings, cross-promote job postings for mobility managers and CPWs, and when allowable, use federal CHW grants as the 20% local match for a mobility manager position.
“After we go back to our communities, how do we find community health workers? Where do we look?” Asked one participant following Dr. Wong’s presentation. Dr. Wong admitted that he was jealous of the centralized resource offered by NCMM’s website, and that because CHWs are not centrally funded, there’s no one place tracking where they are posted. He recommended reaching out to state and local CHW organizations, which can be found on the National Association of Community Health Workers (NACHW) website.
Felicia Jones, Mobility Manager for the Veterans Transportation Program at the Oklahoma City, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), discussed the process and challenges of getting veterans to and from scheduled authorized appointments. Over the past year, the Oklahoma City VA established small local VA services to limit the distance veterans need to travel to receive services. “We went from spending about $6 million to about $3 million a year [on transportation] and we’re able to provide more services for our veterans.” Ms. Jones said. She reminded Forum participants that the federal Veterans Reimbursement Program reimburses mobility programs 41 and a half cents/mile to help veterans access their appointments.
Forum participants used the opportunity to ask Ms. Jones technical program-specific questions. “Can you speak a little bit about eligibility to know who is able to access that transportation? Particularly this idea around how disabled are you to access those benefits?” asked one mobility manager in the audience.
“For veterans transportation service, it’s a free service for all enrolled veterans,” Ms. Jones said. As far as reimbursement, “you do have to be 30% or more service connected, receive a VA pension, and or receiving care for transplant,” she clarified. (Additional guidance from the VA about these requirements can be found here)
Celebrating the Sooner State
In honor of the host state, mobility managers from Oklahoma at the state, regional, and municipal levels presented summaries of their programs. Olivia Hook, Statewide Mobility Manager for the Oklahoma DOT, Kendra McGeady, Transit Director for regional Pelivan Transit, and Stephanie Davis, Mobility Programs Coordinator for Oklahoma City-based Embark summarized the work their teams do to strengthen communities, and how they are funded.
“Our goal as mobility managers is to do more,” said Ms. Davis. “The question then becomes what transportation resources are available in our communities and how can we use those leveraged resources to improve outcomes in wellness, medical workforce development, social service services in the most effective and efficient ways.” Ms. Davis emphasized the importance of information sharing with partners, using pilots and starting small with people-centered design, collecting data to evaluate program success, and developing a technology supported solution.
To support leaders with funding innovative projects, FTA Region 6 Administrator Gail Lyssy, FTA Office of Rural and Targeted Programs representative Danielle Nelson, and Waiver Transportation Program Manager, Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities Sheila Holbrook-White outlined flexible funding opportunities.
One participant asked Ms. Lyssy how to manage local resistance to putting up funding necessary to obtain federal matching grants. “That’s where it’s so important to make sure that transit needs to be at the table and that voice needs to be heard,” she said. “If transit and the cities would coordinate better, it would benefit everybody.”
Ms. Nelson reviewed the Human Services Agency’s Charter Rule, and its exception, “which is nothing new, but sometimes it can be thought of as a best kept secret,” she said as she began her presentation. “There is confusion that it is COVID specific and it’s absolutely not.”.
The Charter Bus Service Rule prevents federally funded vehicles from unfairly competing with charter service companies like private busses and taxis. There are two exceptions: human services organizations can register on the FTA’s website, or if an organization receives at least $1 of funding from one of the providers on this list of federal financial assistance programs.
Ms. Holbrook-White previewed her afternoon workshop, outlining how Medicaid dollars can be used to sustainably fund metro mobility programs. “States [that chose to expand Medicaid] also have an opportunity to offer a subset of services specifically for people with disabilities whose disabilities are significant enough that they would be at risk for institutional settings,” she said. This allows individuals to apply for Medicaid waivers that take federal and state matching funds to pay for transportation for people with significant disabilities.
Following a grilled cheese bar lunch, Forum participants broke into specialized workshops.
Workshop topics included:
Click here to view videos and slides of the NCMM Forum. Contact the individual presenters for more information:
Kim Garrett-Funk, Chief Visionary Officer and Founder, Palomar Kim.email@example.com
Dr. David Wong, Chief Medical Officer; Lead, Community Health Worker Sustainability; HHS Office of Minority Health firstname.lastname@example.org
Felicia Jones, Mobility Manager, Veterans Transportation Program, Oklahoma City VA email@example.com
Olivia Hook, Statewide Mobility Manager, Oklahoma DOT firstname.lastname@example.org
Kendra McGeady, Transit Director, Pelivan Transit email@example.com
Stephanie Davis, Mobility Programs Coordinator, Embark firstname.lastname@example.org
Gail Lyssy, FTA Region 6 Administrator email@example.com
Danielle Nelson, FTA Office of Rural and Targeted Programs Danielle.Nelson@dot.gov
Sheila Holbrook-White, Waiver Transportation Program Manager, Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities firstname.lastname@example.org
Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Sage Kashner (email@example.com).
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