A new program offered by Stettler and District Family Community Support Services (FCSS) is helping seniors and others without transportation get to medical appointments in the cities.
The volunteer driver program came about after the Stettler Handibus decided they could no longer keep running the medical van due to the costs involved.
Seeing a need for a replacement of some type, Stettler FCSS began looking around the province to see what other similar-sized communities are doing.
According to FCSS director Shelly Walker, the answer was found in Okotoks, whose FCSS was already running a similar program.
“We went to the board with the idea, and gained approval,” said Walker.
Walker says FCSS began accepting applicants for drivers at the Community Resource Fair last spring, and since then has acquired six volunteer drivers who have done around 30 trips since June 2022.
“It has been really well received,” said Walker, of the program.
“So far it has been going really well. We’re very fortunate.”
While FCSS can’t use funds to directly support the program, they can assist it through “in-kind” donations such as administrative support.
FCSS is looking for grants and other funding avenues to keep the costs as low as possible for users of the program; however, Walker does note that it is operated on a cost-recovery basis.
Those using the program to get to appointments are charged at the current government rate, which is $0.55 per kilometer. According to Walker, an average trip from Stettler to Red Deer and return costs someone about $100.
“We have to keep looking at that,” said Walker.
“It’s really important to find some ways to subsidize it to keep those costs as low as possible.”
Driver requirements for the program include having a fully registered and insured vehicle with standard liability insurance, a clean vulnerable sector criminal record check, and being physically mobile to assist riders getting in and out of the vehicle.
For more information, contact Walker at Stettler FCSS by calling 403-742-2337, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
While Stettler FCSS did a soft launch of the program in the summer of 2022, they will be doing a hard launch, coupled with more public awareness, in early 2023.