By Tia Lyn Lacorchick staff writer

The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved the application to renew funding from the Department of Human Services (DHS) on March 18, which reimburses Morgan County for the cost of coordinated trasportation services for citizens in Morgan and Jasper counties.

In previous years, the contract only applied to senior citizens, but within the last two years, the program has expanded to include all citizens who are eligible. Eligibility is based on income.

“Providing transit services to an underserved segment of our population is something we take seriously and find to be a core responsibility of local government,” said Michael Lamar, county manager. According to Benita Watkins, director of the senior center and transit, the amount of funding from DHS varies and depends on numerous factors.

“It’s federal money. Last year, the DHS contract was supposed to cover 5,474 trips, but because of a sequester, they had to cut it back to 4,817 trips,” explained Watkins. “That’s over $5,000 in transportation. But we still don’t turn people away. We keep providing the service, even when we don’t get reimbursed.” Watkins noted that these coordinated transportation services primarily are used for medical, mental health, employment, or Department of Family Services (DFCS) trips.

All transportation is travelled via bus. “It’s a needed service. It’s to get people to work and to the doctor. We can’t ignore these people’s medical needs,” said Watkins. Watkins noted this service is heavily utilized in the county.

“We provide about 2,000 trips a month. Half are for seniors and half are for the general public,” said Watkins. “We ask for 24-hour advance notice, but we try our best to accomodate people the best we can. To find out more information about the coordinated transportation services, call 706-342-4052. Trips are scheduled from Monday to Friday, from 6:30 am to 4:30 pm.