Southwest Rides is helping more La Plata County residents make it to their medical appointments by offering rides.
The new service, through Southwest Center for Independence, started in July and has steadily gained ridership, said Assistant Director Jason Armstrong. In October, the service provided 160 trips.
The service provides free door-to-door transportation to medical, vision, therapy and mental health appointments for those who qualify.
“Through collaborative efforts, we want to provide services to support the community to achieve the best possible health outcomes,” Armstrong said in an email.
Southwest Rides will also pick up residents with disabilities, the aging population and veterans who need to go to the Durango Food Bank every week and will pick residents who need to go to the La Plata County Fairgrounds for the monthly commodity food giveaway.
The nonprofit is funded through grants, donations and Medicaid. Some Medicaid recipients qualify for nonemergency medical transportation, and Southwest Rides can bill Medicaid for providing those services.
As the nonprofit diversifies its funding, it will look at providing transportation to other nonmedical destinations, Armstrong said.
The city’s Opportunity Bus also provides door-to-door services for those who qualify, but it is limited to trips inside city limits.
Assistant City Manager Amber Blake said the city planned to publicize Southwest Rides on city buses so that residents who qualify for the service know they have the option.
“There is need for transportation. The more of it we can provide, the better,” Blake said.
The city plans to cut back its fixed-route bus service in April, but door-to-door service will not be reduced, and there is no expectation Southwest Rides would replace city services.
“We are working with Southwest Rides during this transition and process of service reduction,” she said.
About 50 percent of Southwest Rides clients are from within Durango city limits, Armstrong said.
In 2019, Southwest Rides plans to expand services to Montezuma and Dolores counties, a decision partially based on statistical data.
“As we have reached out to other regional transportation providers and county administrations, we have discovered some demand exists,” Armstrong said.
But it will take grants and donations for the service to expand.
To participate in the service, clients must complete an intake application with the transportation coordinator and must book trips five days in advance. Attendants and service animals are welcome to accompany the rider.
Riders can call 946-0232 to become registered in the Southwest Rides system.
To sponsor a rider or group of riders, visit SWIndependence.org/donate or email Jason Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org