National News

Transportation program connects the sick with their doctors

Posted June 21, 2018 5:18 p.m. EDT

— A little-known program connecting sick people with public transit got a standing ovation from Grady Hospital and MARTA leaders Wednesday.

The applause came from patients who credited this with turning their lives around.

Grady doctors picked the sickest, most needy for this pilot program. Those patients who had the most missed appointments and most chronic diseases.

"I wasn't taking my medicine, I wasn't taking NO medicine," said Terri Williams.

Terri Williams brought her four children to Atlanta to get away from her North Carolina husband. Then her heart started to fail.

"You need to start going to your doctor appointment, I didn't know how to get there, didn't know where to go. here to begin? my kids missing so many school days cause I was like, I need for you to help me find how to get to my doctor's appointment," said Williams.

Then the Atlanta Regional Commission sent Amanda Tyler to help teach her how to use public transit.

"Someone who is new to MARTA may not know to look up and see, oh, SW west that way, or something like that," said Tyler.

Other patients, like Marvin in DeKalb County, suffering with cancer was missing appointments in part because of the cost of the ride.

"I can take 5 trips on here, back and forth to the doctors," said Marvin.

The pilot program with federal transportation dollars cost less than half a million dollars. But it means Grady's bottom line improved because of fewer missed appointments. MARTA got more paying passengers. And the 90 or so Atlantans in the program report four healthier days of their lives.

Outside, by herself, Terri reminded me why MARTA is so intimidating.

"Where I'm from we don't have no MARTA. either call a cab or walk this was totally different for me," said Terri.

The program is ending, but that crowd is asking each other to keep it going. With Grady, MARTA and city hall helping push the least among us to understand how to use public transportation to get to the doctor.