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Getting to medical appointments is easy with Vetsgo

 

October 9, 2019 | View PDF

Courtesy Photo

VetsGo volunteer Wayne picks up a senior veteran to drive him to his medical appointment at a local VA facility.

Within Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer, and Weld Counties, veterans over age 65 number more than 27,000 according to the Colorado Veterans Affairs Department. Boulder County alone is home to more than 9,000 military veterans over age 60 who rely on the health care services provided at regional Veterans Affairs medical facilities.

Those neighborhood vets are looking to their medical professionals to help them stay healthy and to diagnose and treat their conditions. But challenges with driving, vision, cognition, difficulties locating unfamiliar addresses, and financial limitations make getting to doctors' appointments extremely difficult.

Vetsgo, one of the service groups under the umbrella of non-profit organization Cultivate (formerly Boulder County Care Connect), is focused on providing veterans 60 and over with no cost door-to-door transportation to medical care providers. In addition to veterans being eligible for Vetsgo services, any direct family member over age 60 also qualifies.

Cultivate, located in Gunbarrel, began 47 years ago as Boulder County RSVP - a senior volunteer recruiting program that matches them with community opportunities. That entity is still ongoing and part of a nationwide program. But over time the organization grew to also provide five categories of free services directly to seniors - home repairs through their Fix-It program, yard maintenance by YardBusters, shoveling through SnowBusters, grocery shopping through Carry-Out Caravan, and Vetsgo.

Recently, what was previously called Medical Mobility, a ride program open to anyone over 60 years old, was refined into Vetsgo.

Cultivate's Executive Director Chrysti Britt said, "At the beginning of this year we transitioned to Vetsgo to better serve the veteran population because, while there were other transportation services in Boulder County, veterans really didn't have a lot of options and there's a critical need."

The organization is working to get the word out about the important service it provides while also reaching out for community support in the form of volunteer drivers and donations.

Every Monday through Friday volunteers pick up senior vets at their homes, offer a ride and frequently an ear while ensuring their client arrives safely at their medical appointments, and then they drive them back home. They don't accompany clients during their appointments, but companions are permitted to come along. Most clients are from Boulder County and about six months ago the service area expanded to include surrounding counties as well.

In addition to area medical providers, Veterans Affairs facilities in Aurora, Golden, Loveland, and Wyoming are frequent destinations for drivers and their clients.

The beauty of the program is not simply transportation. There's the added gratification of connecting, or as the agency's name signifies, cultivating relationships.

More than 80 Vetsgo volunteers have been on the road this year. It's not a surprise that a significant number of drivers (20%) are veterans themselves.

Volunteers sign up to drive whenever it works for them by perusing the secure database for requested client dates and times and then clicking to offer a ride. Britt said there are drivers who jump in once a month and others on the schedule several times a week.

Currently there are 160 clients on board. Thus far in 2019, volunteers have provided more than 2,000 trips to health care providers. Ten percent of those rides have been to Veterans Affairs facilities. Those are longer drives which deliver a great service to clients who would struggle to make the trip on their own. The organization wants to make it as easy as possible for volunteers so mileage reimbursement is available upon request.

"We're always looking for volunteers," Britt said. "It's less of a shortage, but more of a growing demand so obviously the more volunteers we have, the more we can provide. It's obvious there is a huge need and as far we know, there is no other nonprofit or private entity that's focusing on this."

Volunteers are trained through an orientation process, there's no commitment time required, and every so often there are additional trainings available to volunteers such as driving classes which can reduce insurance rates.

Vetsgo, along with the other Cultivate programs, is funded through the Boulder County Area Agency on Aging, local government organizations, private foundations and grants, and through individual donations.

To learn more, enroll for Vetsgo client services, to sign up as a volunteer or to donate to the organization, visit http://www.Cultivate.ngo/vetsgo.

 

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