Three months after OATS, an agency that provides transportation for Missourian seniors, lost its funding and was forced to cut its services in half, local agencies find themselves in a crunch to pick up the slack.
The Boone County Senior Board met Wednesday with State Rep. Steve Hobbs, R-Mexico, and Boone County Council on Aging Director Lois Shelton to begin planning a course of action. Shelton said some local agencies are being overloaded with transportation requests from seniors.
“If we want to keep people in their homes, this is something that we have to address,” Ann Gowans, senior board director, said.
Using money from the Central Missouri Area Agency on Aging, OATS provided transportation to more than 200 seniors last year. Earlier this year, however, CMAAA cut OATS’ funding across 15 counties by $348,000. Since then, OATS in Columbia has been able to run only one bus five days a week to give seniors rides to grocery stores and medical appointments.
“This is a much older and frailer group of people that demands a different type of transportation,” Shelton said.
OATS Director Linda Yaeger said the organization is no longer serving CMAAA and is providing rides based purely on demand. OATS now relies on money from local charities such as the United Way.
Meanwhile, agencies are struggling to fill the gap left by OATS. CMAAA is referring seniors to the city’s paratransit service, to Services for Independent Living and other agencies. The Boone County Council on Aging until recently provided transportation for seniors, but the liability of volunteers became a concern.
The group’s preliminary plan is to work with CMAAA to resolve the issue and to do an inventory of transportation services performed by various agencies. They hope to make some decisions at an Oct. 29 meeting.