McDowell County Tackles Transportation Barriers to Help Underserved Residents Access Quality Health Services

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust awarded a grant to the McDowell County Department of Social Services (DSS) to address transportation barriers that limit West Marion residents’ ability to access health improvement services. This investment is part of the Trust’s long-term Healthy Places NC initiative, which announced a series of grants awarded to local organizations.

The $16,170 grant allows DSS to expand the availability of county-provided transportation to medical appointments, health screenings, senior centers, and the YMCA for West Marion residents who do not qualify for Medicaid. In addition, Medicaid recipients—who currently can only obtain rides for health care appointments—can also access the new transportation services to visit the YMCA, a farmer’s market or other health improvement destinations.

“We don’t have public transportation here in our community. The rides we offer are a lifeline for our low-income residents who need help getting to their medical appointments, shopping for groceries, and going about their daily lives,” said Terry Evans, McDowell County DSS transportation supervisor. “West Marion leaders have stepped up to coordinate transportation services in a way that will make a huge difference for an area of our county that has often been overlooked.”

DSS has been working with the North Carolina Department of Transportation for nearly five years on efforts to increase transportation services. DSS estimates that the grant will help expand the program to serve at least 500 individuals from West Marion.

“We’re proud of the innovative work being done in McDowell County to connect rural residents with the care they need,” said Trust Program Officer Jason Baisden. “Accessing health improvement services can be especially difficult in low-income, rural areas because of transportation barriers. DSS will help community members with few to no health care options access services that can significantly improve their health and quality of life.”

Other grants awarded by the Trust in McDowell County include:
•    Grace Community Church/Grace Generations Foundation (GCC): $168,520 in funding will go toward the construction of a healthy living community kitchen for low-income youth and families in the community. GCC will provide opportunities to families to learn more about nutrition, healthy cooking and the perks of physical activity. The cooking demonstrations will be live streamed to involve area churches, the health department, and other community entities.
•    McDowell Technical Community College: $98,967 will help to create a multi-disciplinary patient simulation lab that serves health science and emergency medical service programs in the county. The Lab will allow students to gain additional training and develop critical thinking in response to feedback from local health care professionals. The Trust’s funding will go toward securing lab equipment.
•    Mission Healthcare Foundation: A portion of the $551,100 grant will go toward a diabetes prevention program for low-income residents. The program, which aims to increase diabetes awareness, hopes to engage 750 new patients over a two-year period. The funding will go toward a program coordinator, data analyst, online services and public relations.
•    Pisgah Legal Services: A portion of the $186,115 in funding will help conduct enrollment of low-income residents into Affordable Care Act health plans. The grant will focus on outreach, and will support the hiring of a program director and outreach coordinator.

McDowell County joined the Healthy Places NC initiative in May 2012. The Trust plans to invest $100 million in 10 to 12 rural counties over a 10-year period. To date, the Trust has invited seven counties—McDowell, Beaufort, Burke, Halifax, Rockingham, Edgecombe and Nash Counties—to participate and will announce additional counties in the coming years. In each county, Healthy Places NC work and projects are driven by the community’s concerns, as well as by where the Trust thinks there’s an opportunity for sustainable, long-term change.