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County steps in to fill transportation void

By Staff | Feb 20, 2020

As of Thursday morning, Lee County began providing transportation services for clients with medical and other special needs after Good Wheels Inc. suspended operations permanently at midnight Wednesday.

Deputy County Manager Dave Harner said Lee County stepped in because it’s about helping and ensuring that clients, including those receiving dialysis, rehabilitation and chemotherapy treatments, get transportation.

Monday night the county found out that Good Wheels was closing, which prompted a short-term recommendation at the Tuesday morning Board of County Commissioners meeting.

“As soon as the board gave us direction we reached out to the CEO and board members and also brought along their schedulers,” Harner said of Good Wheels. “The Good Wheels schedulers are working for the county at the moment to ensure we were getting the client list and the medical trips were provided for.”

“We are now the Community Transportation Coordinator (CTC). We are acting as the CTC at the moment,” Harner said. “Today we kicked off and were able to meet that need.”

The county notified all the appropriate entities that they were taking over the services in the short term, which included reaching out to nonprofits, such as Lighthouse and LARC. Harner said they also did some outreach with other service providers to ensure that everyone was getting a ride.

Harner said the county also contacted each client to let them know the service would continue through the LeeTran Passport component.

Harner said they notified the community that there may be disruption in the normal services to ensure the medically critical clients are taken care of.

“Their (LeeTran) premium passport allows us to go anywhere in the county. It allows us to ensure we can provide trips county wide,” Harner said.

Information has been posted to www.leegov.com/leetran and phone lines were referenced to the county, (239) 533-0300, for those who have questions about Good Wheels. Questions can also be emailed to VWalters@leegov.com.

The county is now working on long- term plans, which include whether they will continue to be the CTC, or whether they look into finding a national entity to provide the service for the county.

The plan is expected to be discussed at the County Commissioners next meeting.

At the Tuesday meeting Harner shared that they received notification from the CEO of Good Wheels that they needed $400,000 by Feb. 21, as well as an additional yearly cost of $600,000. He said Good Wheels was the county’s Community Transportation Coordinator, but as they no longer can perform those services it falls onto the county.

The county is incorporating 150 trips a day into transit for the medically critical clients.

The county hopes to receive Good Wheels’ financial data to better understand the abrupt closure.