The Impact of New Growth Transit on Frequent Rural Medical Access

Rondle Dines
June 4, 2024

Roughly half of all free rides provided by New Growth Transit are for non-emergency medical appointments, addressing a significant challenge for rural Missouri residents, especially for those requiring frequent medical visits that are long distances from their home.

New Growth Transit offers an affordable transportation solution through a volunteer driver network. These caring volunteer drivers not only ensure that riders can access the care they need but they often provide a comfort, companionship, and a sense of community.

But what's it like to live in rural Missouri, need access to frequent medical care, but can’t drive yourself? Read about Gary and James, New Growth Transit riders who had limited choice in transportation.

Needed Specialists in the City

Gary, a Hickory County resident from Wheatland, MO, fell into in a typical gap. His income was just a little too much to qualify for certain assistance, but it was still very difficult to afford a car, especially after his last one broke down. When his local medical clinic referred him to specialists in Osage Beach and Kansas City for serious health conditions, a common scenario for rural residents, he didn’t know how he was going to get there.

Gary could occasionally get local rides from friends or neighbors, but when those folks have to work or are barely getting by themselves, it’s too much to ask them to drive him over 100 miles round trip.

At first, he used a medical transport company, but it was hugely limiting. For him, the rides were costly and he could only have a small number of total allowed trips. Plus, they couldn’t make a quick stop at the pharmacy that was on the way home. Considering he had to visit his doctors nearly every week for a long time, Gary knew that wasn’t going to work.

When he first heard about New Growth Transit’s free rides, he was hesitant to believe it could be real. “I didn’t want to ask for help, but when I finally called, they were very welcoming. You’re not a number to them. They really seem concerned, and the drivers are very nice to work with,” Gary said.

On his very first scheduled ride, Gary suddenly became sick just before the driver arrived. The driver was reassuring and told him not to worry. Gary was so grateful to reschedule both the appointment and the ride. Now he visits his doctors nearly every week without worry. When they can, Gary said that drivers often sit and wait for him to be done without ever a complaint. It’s a huge relief for Gary to not think he’s being a burden.

"When I was first diagnosed, I was really down in the dumps,” Gary said. “If I hadn’t found New Growth Transit, I would have been in a bad spot with my health or forced to somehow move to the city where the places I can afford wouldn’t be very nice, to say the least."

Now, he can maintain his health and continue living in his home.

An Impossible Hardship for Family

Even if residents have family around, accessing medical care in rural Missouri can still be a hardship like it was for James and his family.

James, a Benton County resident from Warsaw, MO area, had a stroke that impaired his peripheral vision, making him unable to drive. But James needed to travel 45 minutes to another town to access dialysis three times a week. His three children all live at least an hour away from him, with some working an additional hour away in the opposite direction of his dialysis center. Being unable to drive himself, the distances and the frequency of his visits was going to create an impossible hardship on his children who would have to miss work every week to take him to all his appointments.

James looked into a medical transportation service, but due to the distance and the length of these kind of visits, it would cost $80 per trip. At three times a week and on a fixed income, that was simply unaffordable. He and his children didn’t know what they were going to do. That’s when he heard about New Growth Transit.

Thanks to New Growth Transit, James not only gets a ride to his four-hour dialysis appointments but also has the assurance that his driver will show up on time.

“It’s really important,” James said, “because if I don’t leave and get there on time, someone else can get my chair and then I’ll be waiting another four hours before I can get a turn. I’m so grateful I can count them because drivers are able to let me know they’re on their way.”

James and his children are all so profoundly grateful for the help.

Moreover, James really enjoys the company of his drivers. With frequent visits, they've become friends, adding a positive social aspect to his routine.

Rural Missouri Transportation Need is Great

In rural Missouri, the transportation need is significant but challenging to affordably address because of the distances involved for those that need regular medical care. When residents can receive adequate access to medical services, the cost savings are huge. Studies have proven that regular medical attention for a person suffering from a chronic condition significantly reduced their ER admission rate and potential long-term hospital stays.

Transportation costs are a fraction compared to the costs of extended medical treatments.

At New Growth Transit, it's more than a ride—it's a lifeline for people like Gary and James. Their stories illustrate the profound impact this service has on individuals who would otherwise struggle to access essential healthcare. And, with a volunteer driver network, it’s an affordable solution that connects people and fosters community.

As Gary and James have experienced, this service is more than just a ride; it's a lifeline that brings peace of mind and the assurance that they and their families are not alone in their health journey.

Need a Ride or Want to Volunteer?

Free rides are available to residents in eligible counties, currently the Missouri counties of Bates, Benton, Camden, Cass, Cedar, Dallas, Henry, Hickory, Morgan, Polk, St Clair, & Vernon.

Volunteer drivers get reimbursed at the federal approved reimbursement rate of $0.67 a mile and choose when and where they are available to drive. No special license is needed because they drive their own car. New Growth Transit provides training and extended insurance.

If you need a ride, would like to be a volunteer driver, or have other questions, call New Growth Transit at 417-283-7991 or email to learn more.

Visit our New Growth Transit Rider and Driver webpage.