Three Southeast Kansas organizations have been awarded over $25,000 to bring public transportation services to Cherokee County, thanks to a Communities Organizing to Promote Equity (COPE) grant addressing health disparities in the county.
Southeast Kansas Community Action Program (SEK-CAP), Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas (CHC/SEK), and the Cherokee County Ambulance Association are working together to provide medical and General Public transportation options to all citizens of Cherokee County.
SEK-CAP received $9,826 for general public transportation needs. A wheelchair accessible bus is now available Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. Appointments are required and can be made one to seven days in advance by calling 620-724-6350. Please leave a message, calls are returned in the order they are received, and appointments are scheduled first-come, first-served. There is no charge for this service, but donations are accepted to help off-set costs.
CHC/SEK was awarded $5,000 to assist in developing a general public transportation program focusing primarily on medical appointment transportation throughout the area. With clinics in Baxter Springs and Columbus, as well as several other clinics in the region, access to healthcare will not be curtailed by a patient’s lack of a vehicle. CHC/SEK will provide rides to any health system regardless of affiliation.
Cherokee County Ambulance Association received $11,000 to go toward the purchase of a wheelchair-accessible passenger van capable of regional and long-distance transport.
This will allow ambulances to stay in service and local vehicles to stay within the county.
Twenty counties across the state received COPE funding. Locally, residents and experts worked together in Local Health Equity Action Teams (LHEATS) to represent, and address identified health disparities across many communities in Kansas.
In Cherokee County, transportation is identified as a primary barrier preventing many residents from accessing needed healthcare, shopping, and social activities.
During the last several months, the Cherokee County LHEAT, consisting of Jake Letner, James Wright, Betha Elliott, Douglas Mogle, Jacob Spencer, Jody Hoener, Nicole Gilmore, Terry Clugston, and Toni Spieth, along with Jamey Whitney (SEK-CAP), Scott Christiansen (SEK-CAP), and Karlea Abel (CHC/SEK) have met to analyze transit issues within the county.
The LHEAT ultimately chose to fund all three agencies, noting that the transportation needs of the county are large enough for each agency to have a viable role and program, and that each agency described a specific niche, or client type, they are best situated to serve.
The COPE funding was made possible by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national initiative to address COVID-19 health disparities in high-risk and underserved communities.