RUMFORD – The community relations director of Western Maine Transportation told the River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition on Wednesday that starting June 1 a nonprofit firm will take over arranging rides for MaineCare clients.

Craig Zurhorst, speaking at the Rumford Public Library, said Western Maine Transportation will turn to Coordinated Transportation Solutions, a nonprofit organization, to help figure out the best mode of transportation for MaineCare clients in nonemergency situations.

“Today, if someone with MaineCare needs to get to a meeting or appointment, they’d call a transportation service, such as Community Concepts or WMT, directly and they would arrange the ride,” Zurhorst said.

“With (an organization) like CTS involved, the MaineCare client would call that organization for any transportation needs instead of the transportation service, and the organization would try and figure out the best mode of transportation for that client.”

He said the change is designed to save money and be more efficient.

Zurhorst said the tentative start date for the switch is June 1.

Several members of the coalition spoke in opposition of the change.

Valerie Cole of SeniorsPlus said the prospect of CTS being in charge of dictating the mode of transportation for MaineCare clients “scared” her and it will “end up being mucky in the end.”

Kathy Gregory, patient services coordinator with Community Dental, said a change in the usual routine may frustrate clients.

“For some clients, if there’s a change and it’s not easy, it’s just another thing that will make them not go to appointments that they should be going to,” she said.

Zurhorst said that besides policy changes, the switch to CTS should be “largely transparent.”

In other business, Sandra Witas, the project coordinator for the RVHCC, announced that this year’s Healthy Hearts 5K run/walk will be held at 10 a.m. May 19.

“This year, we’ll be sponsoring the Maine Harvest for Hunger program,” Witas said. “Pizza Hut is our post-race sponsor. It’s a little contradictory to a healthy lifestyle, but they do make a healthier pizza just for us. It has light cheese with lots of toppings on a thinner crust.”

Other events being offered at the 5K run/walk include pre and post-race massages by Uniquely Yours Massage and EKG heart assessments and automatic external defibrillator demonstrations provided by Med-Care. There will also be free sun-gold tomato seedlings available while supplies last.

“We have a lot of new enthusiasm about it this year,” Witas said. “We have more sponsors this year, I think, than with all the previous years combined.”

The next community network meeting is scheduled for April 24 at the Rumford Public Library.

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