St. John Dial-A-Ride Program for Seniors Cancelled in “Crisis Mode” Over Funding

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Seniors arrive at Adrian Senior Center with assistance of Program Manager and driver Dean Thomas.

 

CRUZ BAY — The St. John Dial-A-Ride Transportation (DART) and Supportive Services program of the St. John Community Foundation is being forced to cancel services until Legislative Funding is processed through the Departments of Human Services and Property and Procurement.

“It is most unfortunate that this is taking place now, just two weeks before Older Americans month, a time set aside for the nation to recognize the valuable contributions our seniors have made to all generations,” Celia Kalousek, Director of the St. John Community Foundation, told St. John Tradewinds.
St. John Dial-A-Ride Transportation and Supportive Services program of the St. John Community Foundation has been in “crisis mode for the past several months,” according to Kalousek.  

“As it stands now, our elderly, disabled and disadvantaged community members will not only be deprived of the reliable and compassionate services needed to get to vital medical appointments, congregate meal sites, social activities and shopping” Kalousek exclaimed.

“But they will also be denied the ability to be transported via the SJCF DART bus to get to the events and activities meant to honor them unless the funding that was promised last year is released,” the community activist added.

Program in “Crisis Mode”
 “Although services have been limited (much to the dismay of the seniors) we have been able to hold off on closing the program until now, because we believed the promises that the reimbursement of program expenses accumulated since October 2014 are imminent….but there seems to be one delay after another,” Kalousek wrote St. John Tradewinds on Friday, April 17.

On April 9, Kalousek attended a St. John Town Hall meeting to make a plea to the Senators present to see if they do anything to help speed up the processing of the funds that the Senate allocated to the St. John Community Foundation to provide essential St. John Dial-A-Ride Transportation and

Supportive Services Unreimbursed Expenses
“As of today, we have over $50,000 of unreimbursed expenses for these services,” Kalousek emphasized.  “We have been a reliable service provider five days a week, and by appointment on weekends and ‘after-hours’ for the elderly disabled and disadvantaged members of this community for over 26 years, but we are in crisis,” Kalousek acknowledged. 

“The Senate knows the value of these services and promised to partner with us by committing partial financial support of this program — but we are not getting that support in time to serve the seniors, disabled and disadvantaged citizens in the way they need us to!” the community organizer emphasized.

“We have used our emergency reserves and it seems that every year receiving the funding is a challenge,” Kalousek explained.  “Several years ago, in the wake of a large funding cut, the seniors went to the legislature to let them know their health and well-being was being severely compromised without the St. John Dial-A-Ride Transportation and Supportive Services program. Although the process was hard on everyone, the senators voted to reverse the cut and reinstate most of the crucial funds needed to serve this vulnerable population.”

Financial Woes in 2014
In April of 2014, the program was in the same position of having allotments delayed and Dial A Ride was operating in “crisis mode” for four months until funds were released, according to Kalousek.

“This past year the senior center operation was cut substantially, but between Dean Thomas, the St. John Dial-A-Ride Transportation and Supportive Services Program Manager and Driver, and the senior center Manager Abigail Hendricks and other DHS staff, they were able to keep the seniors busy with trips to the beach and picnics and shopping and more,” Kalousek said.

“However, we cannot afford to accumulate more than the $50,000 unreimbursed expenses as it stands now, and it breaks my heart to have to deny them the services that they need,” Kalousek added. “I want to believe that it is true, and that funding is imminent. I hope for the sake of the seniors that it is true.

We should all be able to celebrate Older Americans month in May… Especially the Seniors!”

Enhancing Quality of Life
The main goal of St. John Dial-A-Ride Transportation and Supportive Services program is to offer elderly, disabled, and disadvantaged individuals living on or visiting St. John transportation and supportive services that will help them achieve and maintain maximum independence and enhance their quality of life by providing the assurance that they will always have the mobility to do the things they need to do.

St. John Dial-A-Ride provides service regardless of a clients’ ability to pay. They do ask for a small fee-for-service within the ability of the transportation program client and will accept donations that are used to offset costs of vehicle upgrades, safety checks, maintenance, repairs and other operating costs. However, no one is turned down for service if they are unable to pay.

St. John Community Foundation takes special pride in the ability to provide services beyond the demand response transportation by also providing assistance with organizing special get-togethers, events and activities, as well as collaborations with other organizations on events such as Health Fairs, Project Homeless Connect, the Visiting Veterans Wounded Warrior program, Intergenerational Community Service Projects and more!

“Our primary driver Dean, who has grown up with most of the seniors on island, is a trusted friend who is welcome in their homes and is often requested to help the homebound seniors with groceries and medicine pickups, provide haircuts and minor chores as needed, ” Kalousek elaborated.  “When the tasks are outside of his area of ability or expertise, he makes a concerted effort to make sure their needs are met via referral to other service providers.”

Transportation and Support
Routine transportation and supportive services include (but are not limited to):

• Medical care appointments and medication pick-up: Coordination of and transportation to doctor’s appointments and drugstore/pharmacy for medicines and health supplies.  Clients who need assistance making appointments, coordinating multiple errands, require reminders or follow up services are also offered these services at no charge.

• Daily home pick-up service which allows seniors to attend local senior centers to take advantage of congregate meals, social, recreational and educational offerings.  Many seniors lack a support system and this consistent interaction ensures they have someone who checks in on them regularly.  This keeps them engaged and encourages continuous participation to reduce the risk of isolation, and helps identify seniors who may be at risk of the onset of dementia or depression due to lack of social interaction, mental stimulation or lack of access to basic health and human services.

• Grocery & personal shopping locally and includes trips to St. Thomas for buying in bulk at discounted prices.  With sufficient funding, we plan to reintroduce the discounted grocery distribution program so seniors can take advantage of the bulk prices without having to store large quantities of household goods and supplies.

• Special get-togethers, events and community activities including cultural performances, educational and political forums, recreational and sporting events, civic activities including voting and town hall meetings, health fairs for vital screenings, preventative health care information and services.

• Referral services to outside service providers to help make the connections for proper health and well-being services.  This includes assistance making appointments and completing forms for clients who cannot hear, see, read or write well enough to do this on their own.  We also offer transportation to and from their appointments and are available for follow up service provision.

• Services available for elderly &disabled tourists, as well as providing tour operators and travel agencies with details on services available for travelers with special needs who want to visit St. John.  The Cruz Bay tourist information booth routinely refers tourists with special needs to our agency for transportation while on island and information on accessible venues.

• Disaster relief transportation and supportive services St. John Dial-A-Ride Transportation is available to provide disaster relief transportation as needed for evacuation, delivery of food and medical supplies, and transportation to/from emergency shelters.
SJCF Founded in 1989
The St. John Community Foundation was formed in 1989, to help St. John recover from the massive destruction caused by Hurricane Hugo. Through this community commitment toward a common goal, the Foundation was born and continues to serve the island’s residents.
The St. John Community Foundation is a locally incorporated, non-profit Virgin Islands corporation whose mission is to promote programs that strengthen community and enhance the quality of life for all members of the St. John community.
Plans are underway for the development of a Community Pavilion and Gardens at Foundation Park, where the agency has also leased property to the St. John Historical Society to build a museum.
 and Archives.
Donations can be directed to any of these programs and others via The St. John Angel Network. Checks can be made out the St. John Community Foundation and mailed to PO Box 1020 St. John, VI 00831 or dropped by the third floor Marketplace Office Suites II #203. Feel free to direct any questions to the Director, Celia Kalousek via celia@sjcf.org or by calling 340-693-9410.