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Seniors get more ride options

By: Bruce Warren Journal Staff Writer
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Area seniors will have more options tor rides to doctor appointments starting Jan. 2, 2009. Currently, Health Express offers free rides to seniors in the Auburn area for those who have no vehicle or who are unable to drive. However, Western Consolidated Transportation Agency has decided to collaborate with Seniors First of Auburn for a two-year pilot program that will expand ride coverage to Roseville and Sacramento. David Melko, senior transportation planner with Western Placer Consolidated, pointed out that the expanded coverage area would be possible due to the larger budget that his agency would bring to Health Express, which is run by Seniors First. “Seniors First has a budget of about $125,000 and if our board approves a partnership we would add $375,000 to make the total budget $500,000,” Melko said. “This will mean more rides available to a larger area.” In addition to Rocklin, Lincoln and Roseville being added to the Health Express territory, one weekly trip to Sacramento will become available. Candace Roeder, executive director of Seniors First, is pleased that a wider area will be served. “I think this is a program in line with our mission to keep seniors independent,” Roeder said. “Seniors will have more options for more times and places when making medical appointments.” Edith Wenzel, board member at the Multipurpose Senior Center in Auburn, hopes the expanded service will be dependable. “It would be nice if people can depend on it,” Wenzel said. “It would make a big difference for a lot of people who don’t have a car. It’s a good idea for them being able to go to Roseville.” Health Express does not take seniors to do shopping, banking or other errands. The service is strictly for medical appointments, Melko said. “There is no fare for the first person and attendant, but for a third person there would be a nominal fee,” Melko said. “If they bring a personal care attendant, that’s OK, but if they brought a relative they would have to pay.” Amy Bakker, Health Express coordinator for Senior Express from her D Avenue, Auburn office, pointed out that Colfax would also be covered. She has a ridership goal, too. “We’re shooting for 600 trips a month,” Bakker said. “We have quite a few who go to the Kaiser facility in Roseville, but our primary rides are still Auburn to Auburn.” For 10 years, Health Express operated just in Auburn but a year ago, it expanded to all of Placer County. According to Bakker, 73 percent of the riders are 80 and over and one senior is 102. Seniors rely on Health Express to get to medical appointments for chemo treatments, dialysis, lab work and other medical reasons.