Starting April 5, residents in Blaine County and Twin Falls will have a new non-emergency medical transportation system.
Mountain Rides will transport people in rural communities in and around the Wood River Valley from Blaine County to Twin Falls, and vice versa, for needed medical care.
The transportation service is running a pilot program through various grants and funding. During the Sun Valley City Council meeting, Cece Osborn, Mountain Rides’ Mobility and Safe Routes Coordinator, said that they recently received $85,000 from St Luke’s Wood River Foundation, allowing project to run through the end of 2021.
Mountain Rides is offering two round trips a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Patients traveling to Twin Falls will have a window from 10:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. to make appointments, while those traveling to St. Luke’s Wood River will be able to schedule an appointment between 12 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. To view pick-up locations and times, click here.
“Having it three days a week means that we will be able to 100 percent cover dialysis patient’s transportation needs down to Twin Falls on Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” Osborn said. “Also the majority of oncology appointments and cancer treatments take place on Wednesdays.”
Throughout the pilot, Mountain Rides has found two major transportation voids in the community that it can fill: Increased access to medical appointments in Twin Falls and improved quality of transportation to and from Twin Falls. Before this, the only public transportation system that was available cost $29 to $40 for just one way.
The Mountain Rides website shows several rides they offer or promote, including the free town bus, commuter bus and a ride match service that helps create online carpool matches.
“Accessibility has been a primary focus. It’s really the driving force behind this project,” Osborn said. “Accessibility to medical care, but also within the service we want to make sure that people can get to the bus stops well and they can get on and off the bus well.”
Mountain Rides has been coordinating with social workers across the Wood River Valley since the pilot started.
“The resounding message we’ve got from social workers throughout this project is that the Wood River area is the hardest for us to coordinate transportation to and from,” Osborn said. “That was true from social workers from substance abuse clinics to oncology offices, to ophthalmology, to cardiology, to ear nose and throat to dialysis and so forth.”
There is information available in English and Spanish at Wood River Valley St. Luke’s, the dialysis center, other stops and on their Facebook page.
“I think this program is something that is a necessity,” Council Member Keith Saks said “… It will be used once people know that it’s out there. (And) I’ve also been told that you’re working closely with the Senior Connection which I think is spot on.”
It costs about $13,000 a month and around $156,000 a year for Mountain Rides to operate. Program officials are looking for additional funding to continue the program until October 2022. If everything goes as planned, Mountain Rides is hoping to work on getting federal funding in 2023.