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Welcome to the November 2017 issue of MassMobility, covering news about community transportation, human service transportation coordination, and mobility management in Massachusetts.

This month, we feature two stories of healthcare providers helping patients overcome transportation barriers, and two stories of organizations taking non-traditional approaches to promoting bike safety. We also highlight a new initiative offering peer support to seniors who wish to ride transit in Boston.

This newsletter is compiled by MassMobility, an initiative of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, with support from MassDOT.
Hospital partners with transportation provider for recovery rides
After a six month pilot, Harrington Hospital recently signed a contract with SCM Elderbus to transport patients in six towns to its Partial Hospitalization Program , a new day program providing an intensive level of care to people with dual diagnoses for mental health and substance abuse disorders. This program is located in Webster, where transportation options are slim, especially for patients who are not on MassHealth . The transportation pilot, which launched in April, quickly helped fill this gap; currently, between 50 and 65 percent of Harrington's Partial Hospitalization clients are using the Elderbus transportation service.
Harrington staff originally learned about the transportation provider from a client, who uses the READYBUS service that Elderbus operates for transportation to and from work. Initially, the hospital referred individual patients to Elderbus, but soon began direct conversations with the local transportation non-profit as they realized that many potential patients were unable to access the program due to lack of transportation. Harrington's early start time made it difficult for Elderbus to accommodate all the clients within their regular service hours, so Harrington Hospital and SCM Elderbus created a separate contract to cover transportation for clients in six towns within the Elderbus service area. In a short amount of time, Elderbus was already providing 100 trips per month for the program.
Harrington reports that clients are very happy with the service, and that the transportation is critical to program success. "Paying for transportation is an expense, but it's definitely worth it in the long term because patients are getting access to services they wouldn't get otherwise. Without Elderbus, I'm not sure how many clients we would have," shares Christina Beesley, Director of Recovery Services at Harrington Hospital.
"The partnership with Harrington is just another way for us to expand our service to be of value in our community. We are always looking for ways to leverage what we have in place without adversely impacting our core customers," explains SCM Elderbus Executive Director Tim O'Day. "It's rewarding to play a small part in helping people overcome some of the hurdles in their lives."
Clinic launches volunteer driver program
In the middle of this summer ,  Volunteers in Medicine of the Berkshires (VIM) added a volunteer driver program to the free services they provide to people who do not have health insurance. VIM offers many different health care services under one roof -  primary care, dental, behavioral health, and optometry, among others - all for free, and helps patients coordinate their appointments so they can minimize the number of times they have to come to the clinic. However, some patients were still having trouble accessing care, and many were unable to find transportation if they were referred out of the clinic to a specialist.

To address this, VIM developed a volunteer driver program. VIM already had many volunteers providing medical services or administrative support, so they sought to recruit new volunteers who could serve as drivers. Since many patients are immigrants, VIM targeted their volunteer recruitment to groups who were motivated to help local immigrant communities. Within the first two months, they were able to recruit eight new volunteers. These volunteers report enjoying getting to know the patients, and appreciate the flexibility: they can opt to provide rides according to when their own schedule permits.

To ensure safety, VIM checks volunteers' CORI reports, driving records, and vehicle insurance, and provides an orientation. Drivers wear a badge and place a sign in their vehicle identifying them as a VIM ride. Patients submit their ride requests to a staff coordinator , who reviews the request and if appropriate finds an available volunteer. Drivers can receive limited mileage reimbursement. The program is currently providing about 10 to 15 rides per month - all helping uninsured individuals access vital health care services.

"As individuals, we cannot change the world, but with a kind gesture we can make a difference in someone's life," says Patient Coordinator Natalia DeRuzzio. "This is what our volunteers drivers are doing for our patients. They are helping us address health disparities and overall changing our patients' worlds."
Boston launches peer bus buddies program for seniors
On October 4, the Boston Bus Buddies pilot launched at the Mayor's Health and Fitness Walk. Bus Buddies is part of Boston RSVP, a program that matches people 55 and over with volunteer opportunities throughout the City of Boston. The goal of Bus Buddies is to connect volunteers with an older adult who needs assistance riding public transportation.

As part of its Age Friendly Initiative, the City of Boston's Commission on Affairs of the Elderly surveyed older adults and found that seniors wanted to be more engaged in community life, but a lack of access to transportation was impeding their ability to do so. Further research led to the concept of a bus buddy: companionship and guidance provided to older adults interested in increasing their ease in navigating public transit. Bus buddy programs have been successfully implemented in cities around the nation and seemed like a great fit for Boston.

How does the process work? A volunteer is matched with an older adult participant in the community. The volunteer becomes a peer mentor, finding out where the older adult wants to go, planning a route, and helping them learn to load a Charlie Card, read a schedule, or choose the best time for travel. The Boston Elderly Commission sponsors this pilot, with funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Tyissha Jones-Horner, Administrative Director of Volunteer Programs at the Commission of Affairs on the Elderly, shared that the main goal of the program is to get seniors out and taking public transit in order to increase their independence and keep them socially engaged with friends, neighbors, and peers. She adds that an important element of the program is that the older adults "trust the peer volunteers. It adds a social engagement element, which makes it fun. They're socializing while learning!"

Seniors interested in signing up for this program should contact Boston RSVP. For additional services around Massachusetts that can help you learn to ride transit, check out our new webpage on travel instruction programs.
Light Brigade helps low-income cyclists travel safely
In October, the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike) launched the Light Brigade initiative to install and supply LED lights on bicycles at no cost to the cyclist. The main goal of the program is safety: to increase the visibility of riders as the hours of daylight decrease. According to Richard Fries, Executive Director of MassBike, 20 percent of bikers ride after daylight, but more than 50 percent of bike fatalities occur during that time. A large number of cyclists out during dark are utility cyclists, who use a bicycle as their mode of transportation through necessity, and often lack the means to supply and install their own lights.
Funding for the program came from $1,000 in seed money from Digital Lumens, an LED lighting company, as well as online donations. Each $10 donation covers the cost of a set of LED lights that last for a full year before needing to be replaced, lowering the financial burden for many low-income and utility cyclists. MassBikes distributed the nearly 1,000 lights prior to the end of Daylight Savings Time at state and community colleges around the Commonwealth.
Fries hopes to raise awareness of cyclists more generally through this initiative while improving the overall conditions for cyclists and highlighting the importance of lights. "You never know which life you saved," he shares. 
North Adams builds bike culture one ride at a time
Starting in June, a group of cyclists have been meeting on Thursdays at the St. Anthony's parking lot in the heart of North Adams for the Downtown Bike Around, a slow, group ride around downtown North Adams. The event is an initiative of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition (NBCC) to increase cyclist visibility and enhance bike culture.  The program began following feedback from community members about the need to improve biking infrastructure in North Adams. Inclusive of all ages and abilities, the ride occurred weekly during the summer and then monthly during the fall, always on the same day at a consistent place and time.

The first ride saw 10 to 15 people, mostly friends and family of the organizers, and quickly grew from there; the October ride had just under 100 participants!  Amanda Chilson, Mass in Motion Project Coordinator at NBCC, stated that community involvement and publicity were key to expanding the event. Participants shared information both in person and online, a hand-drawn flyer was created for advertisement, organizers reached out to key stakeholders, and reminders were sent out before each ride. Organizers also reached out to the local police department, and a uniformed police officer joined the rides.

One particularly successful event this summer combined the Downtown Bike Around with DownStreet Art, a program of visual and performing arts in downtown North Adams. The evening centered on biking with a flat tire clinic, a bike tune-up, and bike decorating before cyclists set off on the community ride. Combining the Bike Around with an established event afforded it greater visibility and helped expand its audience.

The slogan of Downtown Bike Around is "building bike culture, one ride at time." Chilson shares that with consistency and community engagement, any town and "anyone can do it... one ride at a time."
Job posting
PVTA is looking to hire a travel trainer.
Check out our updated website
We have a brand new website to announce, thanks to a statewide overhaul of Please visit us at  and let us know what you think!

If you have suggestions for additional information you would like to see online related to improving mobility for seniors, people with disabilities, or low-income commuters, let us know.
Who is MassMobility?
For those of you who only know us through the newsletter,  MassMobility is a state initiative based at EOHHS which also receives funding from MassDOT. We seek to improve mobility for seniors, people with disabilities, and others in all regions of Massachusetts by sharing information about existing services and supporting organizations in their efforts to fill transportation gaps.  We provide presentations to human service agency staff to help them learn how to help consumers find transportation, and we also provide technical assistance to any organization looking to address transportation challenges. We welcome you to contact us any time if you have a question or idea for a project that would improve mobility for seniors or people with disabilities.
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