Since inception of the Veterans Ride Free program in late July, over 9,000 free rides have been provided to veterans across the Wichita area. The program is a partnership between Wichita Transit, United Way of the Plains and the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center offers free rides for veterans with proper identification on all Wichita Transit routes.
“This program is unique because it not only provides rides to and from the VA or other health care appointments, but it provides free rides to anywhere a veteran may need to go on a fixed route,” said Misty Lester, Chief of Social Work Service at Dole VA. “We practice a Whole Health model of healthcare at VA. That means while health and mental health care are front and center, success comes from being able to get to work, access food and laundry facilities, attend church, community events, or engage in other activities that promote well-being,” she stated.
Veterans have been very responsive to the program. One veteran had typically isolated himself, staying home all day alone and depressed. He secured employment after the ability to ride the bus for free motivated him to get out of his apartment. Getting out had a positive impact on his mood, decreased his depression symptoms and eventually motivated to seek work.
Another veteran has experienced reduced anxiety since she no longer has to budget for a monthly bus pass. This has allowed her to increase food in her household, avoiding food insecurity and skipping meals.
"Partnering with multiple agencies so that we can better support veterans in our community through this program is something we are especially proud of at United Way of the Plains," said Pete Najera, President and CEO of United Way of the Plains. "Our community is stronger as a whole when we can create opportunities like this one that enable veterans to live productive lives, particularly after all they've done to support us through their military service."
United Way's financial support of the program is partially funded by a grant from Bank of America.
Beginning November 21, Wichita Transit Route 24 that serves the Dole VA will include a routine stop on the medical campus. Wichita Transit authorities indicated a stop at the VA Medical Center had been made on a request-only basis for the past several years, and passengers had to call dispatch to request a pickup.
For more information, please visit the United Way of the Plains website at:
About the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center
The Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center is a Joint Commission accredited, Level 2 facility located in Wichita, KS, with six other outpatient clinics located in Dodge City, Hays, Hutchinson, Liberal, Parsons and Salina. It provides a full range of patient care services, is a long-standing teaching hospital, and is a part of VHA VISN 15 Heartland Network. The Medical Center serves about 30,000 Veterans living in 59 counties of the state.