Health care access is a social determinant of health (or conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes). Access to health care means having the timely use of personal health services to achieve the best health outcomes. Access to care was identified as one of five top priority areas in the 2020 Meigs County Community Health Assessment and was found to be a state-wide issue in the 2019 Ohio State Health Assessment.
Transportation, which greatly impacts access to care, is a priority statewide. In Southeastern Ohio specifically, long distances to jobs, grocery stores and health care and limited infrastructure present unique obstacles to well-being. According to the 2020 Meigs County Coordinated Transportation Plan, transportation is a critical component of the communities in Meigs County. Transportation provides access to jobs, education, health care, human services and allows all community members, including older adults and people with disabilities, to live independently and engage in community life.
Meanwhile, the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic has made accessing health care and other essential services more difficult for many in our communities. In March 2021, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) allotted $7 million statewide via the Rides to Community Immunity (RCI) Program of which Meigs County was awarded $15,000. The funding is available through Dec. 2022. The Meigs County Health Department (MCHD) received this funding because the county currently does not have public transit. The purpose of the RCI Program is to provide equity to all Ohioans in their ability to obtain a COVID 19 vaccine by assuring access to transportation services to receive a vaccine.
The MCHD contracted with the Meigs County Department of Jobs and Family Services (MCDJFS) initially to provide transportation services to all Meigs County residents to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The program was underutilized for several months. Therefore, with ODOT’s permission, use of the RCI Program funds was expanded to include transportation for all Meigs County residents to medical appointments, employment, education and necessary basic needs as it relates to COVID-19 response.
If you live in Meigs County and have a COVID-19 related need, please call 740-444-7604 to schedule a free ride.
The MCHD extends appreciation to ODOT and the MCDJFS for helping to address access to care in Meigs County.
Courtney C. Midkiff, BSC, is the Meigs County Health Department Administrator.