A new service in Livingston County aims to improve the community’s overall health by providing focused transportation to wellness-related appointments.

Ascension Providence Hospital, Michigan Medicine and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System have committed to contributing $106,000 for the service for the next three years through the collaborative partnership with the Livingston Essential Transportation Service, or LETS. The goal is to get more people to their medical appointments, pharmacy visits, physical therapy, or anything that’s wellness-related, in order to improve the overall wellbeing of county residents.

Elisabeth Vanderpool, Director of Community Health at St. Joseph Mercy Health System, says by providing transportation to wellness-related destinations, the service will free up space for LETS’ usual operations and residents needing transportation to other kinds of places that could help improve the social determinants of health. Vanderpool says there is a waitlist for residents needing transportation through LETS, adding they know there are issues of access to healthcare, but that there are also issues affecting the social determinants of health, like a lack of access to healthy foods, or a need for transportation to handle necessary tasks like paying bills.

Livingston County’s Board of Commissioners on Monday approved a resolution to accept $318,000 in funding from the participating healthcare providers. That money will match an additional $130,000 in state and federal transportation grants, which will give LETS an estimated budget of $230,000 at a minimum to provide the service. LETS Director Greg Kellogg says says that will allow them to hire two additional full-time drivers for their two, brand new 10-passenger vans.

Kellogg tells WHMI the transportation service is part of the Health Department’s Community Health Improvement Plan, which had a component called the Health Integration Work Group that focused on improving the social determinants of health. The group included representatives from the three contributing health providers, the Health Department and LETS who worked on reducing barriers to healthcare access.

Kellogg says the ultimate goal once the three-year agreement is up is to renew it and maintain those contributions and, hopefully, make the service a permanent staple in the community. (DK)