A Plan for Reliable Transportation For Poor Montanans

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(Billings, MT – Jackie Yamanaka, YPR) – The provider of public health services for Montana’s largest community is moving most of its services to one campus. A lack of reliable transportation has hindered access to some programs spread across Billings.

Riverstone Health oversees the community health center that provides primary care to the uninsured or underserved in Billings. Many clients are low-income. The organization, formerly known as the Yellowstone City-County Health Department, is currently undergoing an expansion and renovation of its campus.

John Felton, Riverstone’s vice president of operations says the maternal health program -- Women, Infants, and Children -- will be moved to the community health center as part of renovation. “For one of us to get in the car and go a couple of miles is not a big deal if we have reliable transportation,” he says.

But for many of the center’s patients who would benefit from WIC, it is a burden to go to another location for services, he says, especially because it’s not along a bus route.

“When this project is complete, rather than getting in a car or finding a ride people will literally walk upstairs and they’ll be at the WIC program,” Felton says. He notes that Riverstone Health is located on Billings’ Southside in part because the U.S. Census has identified this area as lower-income.

“And one of the hallmarks of being low income,” he says, “is not having access to reliable transportation. So we’re on a bus line here and many of our patients walk.”