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CRT announces new Clarksburg-area medical route for residents without rides to appointments

BUCKHANNON – Country Roads Transit will soon be making life a little more manageable for veterans and people in Upshur County without reliable rides to doctors’ appointments.

Laura Ward, director of Country Roads Transit, told Buckhannon City Council at its meeting Thursday the CRT would be expanding its offerings to include a Clarksburg-area medical route, which will include rides to the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center and Clarksburg-area medical specialists’ offices.

In addition, CRT will soon begin accepting vouchers from WVU Medicine/St. Joseph’s Hospital patients who need to get to important medical appointments but don’t have a regular form of transportation.

CRT, which partners with the Upshur County Senior Center, is a public transportation agency that serves residents in Upshur and Randolph counties, offering both regular routes and demand-response rides that may be scheduled ahead of time.

Already in its sixth year of partnering with the Upshur County Senior Center, Ward said the agency continues to look for “unmet transit needs” in Upshur and Randolph counties and is now proud to announce the start of a new Clarksburg-area medical route. Although Ward did not release details of when the route would start, she said the route will not only transport veterans who don’t have readily available transportation to the VA Center in Clarksburg, but CRT will also transport St. Joseph’s Hospital patients who need rides to medical specialists’ offices in the Clarksburg area.

“We have talked with (president and CEO) Skip Gjolberg with St. Joseph’s Hospital, and it’s not just vets who have a problem getting to the VA for appointments, it’s also St. Joseph’s patients who need to see specialists in the Clarksburg area and have trouble getting there,” Ward said. “We have received approval from the Division of Public Transit to expand our services and begin that route, and we are waiting for a van that they are going to provide to us.”

Country Roads Transit was able to provide funding for a 50/50 match to support the new service, but may need funding from outside entities to meet the state agency halfway in future years, Ward said.

“We all know that getting people to those regular appointments to keep them healthy is, of course, better for those folks, but also from a financial standpoint, it saves our community money,” she said, “so we have talked with St. Joe’s and they have identified folks who are having trouble getting to their appointments because of transportation.”

While CRT typically accepts regular payments for rides, Ward said the hospital will provide those patients with vouchers, and CRT will, in turn, bill the hospital monthly to recoup the cost.

“It’s a commitment, again, on the part of everyone to try to keep everyone healthier, and we are just so excited to continue to meet these needs as we find them,” she said.

During her annual report for the prior fiscal year, Ward reported a 21 percent decrease in ridership that began in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am proud to say that we never stopped serving, although we did have a small suspension in route service, while we were trying to figure out how to safely transport [and socially distance] riders,” Ward told council members. “However, our demand-and-response service (that allows riders to call ahead and schedule rides to specific places) never missed a day.”

Ward said she wanted to thank her staff for their dedication to the mission of CRT.

“They understand importance of rides to people, and we are mostly talking about people who simply have no other way to get to their destinations, to doctors’ appointments, to grocery stores,” Ward said. “You and I may be able to choose to do Walmart pickup for groceries, but if you don’t have a car, that’s kind of difficult. I’m proud of our staff for their commitment to our ridership.”

Mayor Robbie Skinner and council members thanked Ward for her work, and she said she would be submitting a standard request for funding as council crafts its fiscal year 2021-2022 budget in February and March.

According to its website, Country Roads Transit was formed in July of 2006 to expand transportation options for Randolph and Upshur county residents and is funded, in part, through the West Virginia Department of Transportation Public Transit Division.

Learn more about CRT and the rides it provides here.

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