The Topeka Region is home to a wealth of healthcare services including two hospitals, a VA Medical Center, and numerous clinics, primary care offices, and therapists. Even with the availability of quality care, some community members still have trouble accessing services due to limited transportation options. Jurisdictional boundaries create gaps in transit services, schedules create barriers to receiving timely care, and lines drawn around groups of riders prevent sharing rides. These boundaries can lead to situations like dialysis centers not being accessible by transit, patients waiting for hours for transportation after an appointment, and inefficient or expensive modes of transport being the only available way of getting to healthcare. These issues cross sectors and require a multi-sector approach in solving them. One of the largest challenges is finding opportunities to bring together not only individuals with insights into the issues, but also those with power to make changes, into one room.
Enter Mike Spadafore, the Director of Mobility Management in Topeka and Shawnee County. Working with NCMM, Mike leveraged his contact list, as well as those identified by the meeting co-chair Martha Gabehart from KCDC, to invite a range of stakeholders including riders with disabilities to local healthcare providers to the public library system were all represented. With a variety of important voices in the room, we posed the question “How might we establish accessible, affordable, and timely transportation for patients of all ages, abilities, and incomes to improve overall health the Topeka and Shawnee County region?”