October 04, 2006

Grant funds study of rural medical transportation

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development, part of Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Office of Economic and Regional Development, is working to improve health care access for rural communities.

The center recently received a $250,000 grant from Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to establish rural medical transportation networks in the southern 34 counties of Illinois.

The SIU president's office worked with the center to formulate the IDOT project proposal. The School of Medicine and the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute are partners in developing and implementing this initiative.

"Right now, there are individual transportation systems in each county but they do not cross their boundaries," said Tess D. Ford, director of the center. "We will find out where the gaps are and work to improve transportation services so more people can be served."

Rural medical transportation networks include ambulance services, non-emergency patient transport and medical equipment transport.

An advisory steering committee will complete the "gaps analysis" by next June to gain a better understanding of the landscape of rural medical transportation in Southern Illinois. Organizers will then review federal, state and local procedures, laws and statutes that prevent and/or limit the coordination of services between and among providers.

Based on this primary analysis, the center will establish two or three rural medical transportation networks in targeted mini-regions to improve local coordination and expand rural medical transportation systems.

The center will then replicate the model in other rural communities.

Supporting the enhancement of medical services is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.