Host: Welcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guest today is Cathy Colicchia, director of Independence Express at WNYIL. And I'm your host, Ernie Churchwell. Welcome to the program, Cathy.
Guest: Thank you, Ernie. Thank you for having me.
Host: It's our pleasure. And you're here because there's been a relatively new development in the sort of transportation the agency can provide, which is Medicaid transportation. However, the procedures are quite different from standard transportation. Can you tell us the ins and outs thereof?
Guest: I will do my best. We now provide Medicaid transportation. Where traditionally we did not. And an individual can call the same way they would normally schedule Medicaid transportation. They don't call us directly. They either contact a provider who schedules transportation for them if that's what they normally do, or they can call the Medicaid answering service, which that number is 1-800-651-7040. And schedule the ride. When they call Medicaid, they will speak to an individual who will assist them in scheduling the ride.
Host: Alright, so all the nuts and bolts of things are taken care of by someone other than someone at Independence Express then, but this is still an option that they didn't have, say, a year ago, which is using Independence Express to get their van, right?
Guest: That's correct. So, when they call who they normally would call, they can request WNYIL as the provider.
The individual who is scheduling the ride with them will either look up our availability, which is 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, which means our first pickup is at 7:30 a.m. and our last pick up is at 6:00 p.m. Medicaid will send us a request through the website. I will receive the request. I will check to see if we have a driver available. If we do, I will approve the trip and the driver will be assigned and the van will be assigned. If we cannot do the trip for whatever reason, I would have to refuse the trip. It will go back in the pool and they will receive whoever's next. Now the difference between our transportation and other transportation providers in Western New York because there are a lot of Medicaid transportation providers in Western NY, currently we are serving Erie and Niagara counties, most towns in both of those, and we are a peer-run agency for those who don't know what we do and who we are. And we had a desire to begin providing Medicaid transportation because of complaints we received about the services that they were being provided so we tried our best to provide transportation that is safe, reliable and that people are treated with dignity and respect. So, we hope that people will call us when they have a need.
Host: So, you'd say that the main difference between us and longer-term Medicaid providers is that we put the will of the consumer first.
Guest: Absolutely. Like every other service here at WNYIL, we follow Independent Living philosophy, which in many of our staff are people with disabilities. So, we're a peer-run organization and many of our drivers are peers. And we really would like to provide the best service we can.
Host: And in the event that for some reason we can't work out Medicaid transportation, we can always have our traditional fee-based transportation that people can request.
Guest: That's correct. Our fee for service is still $15 each way, plus $0.50 per mile traveled. So, a round trip if the round trip was 5 miles, it would be $35 for the round trip.
Host: And as they were running really short on time, if people have questions, how can they reach you?
Guest: 716-836-0822 and extension 108, they would speak to Christian, my assistant.
Host: Thanks so much for being with us, Cathy.
Host: You've been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guest today is Cathy Colicchia, director of Independence Express at WNYIL. And I've been your host, Ernie Churchwell.