Wichita, Kansas (KSNW) – A transportation pilot project between Wichita State University and Sedgwick County is changing the lives of people struggling with substance abuse and mental health.

The Wichita State University Center for Public Policy and Management and the Sedgwick County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coalition: Barriers Commission worked with the Kansas Substance Abuse Center to bring this project to life.

The Barriers Commission identified transportation as a major barrier for those seeking help.

Project Participant Amanda Johnson said:

Amanda Johnson is a recovering addict and one of 15 people selected for the pilot project.

Clients are provided with a free bus pass that can be accessed by phone.

The goal is to see what life would be like once transportation barriers were removed.

“It’s about getting people into the service and keeping it going,” said Harold Casey, CEO of the Kansas Center for Substance Abuse (SACK).

Usually around $55 a month, it makes a big difference in the lives of our clients.

“If they could keep their sobriety, they could keep stable housing if they had a job,” said Dulcinea Rakestraw, program evaluation manager at the WSU Public Policy and Management Center.

According to Casey, this saved the community an estimated $10,000 a month for the three-month project.

“It reduces emergency room visits and reduces hospital admissions,” Casey said.

Casey wasn’t sure if it would make a difference.

“This project has proven to be a huge success for the community,” said Dawn Schepler, executive director of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coalition.

“I was able to make all my appointments and go grocery shopping. I was homeless and now I’m not,” Johnson said.

Ms. Johnson finds an apartment and acknowledges consistent accessibility to support services to keep her receiving treatment.

“All of these things are important, and nearly 100% of us were able to meet mental health appointments,” says Casey.

Johnson said she still struggles without the program.

“It’s a whole different lifestyle to be able to have a home, to be able to eat, to be able to go to the grocery store, and to be able to get reservations instead of being homeless,” Johnson said.

The project has been extended for one year.

For 15 clients, it will cost an estimated $900 per month.

Researchers are asking for more funding to support their research.

You can read more about the entire project here.



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