Answering the call for transportation needs


By Sue Cody

Say you’re living in the country, have limited income and have a broken leg that keeps you from driving. Somehow, you need to get to a doctor’s appointment and the grocery store. All your friends are on vacation, there is no bus service or taxi close by. You feel stuck.

That is when Providence Seaside Hospital’s Community Connections can step in and help. Community Connections offers free transportation to appointments and services that relate to health and well-being.

“We offer all kinds of free rides to residents in Clatsop County to attend appointments, trips to the grocery store — even a nail salon,” says program coordinator Justin Johnson.


Assisting applicants

Community Connections serves people of low income who have no other means of transportation, such as neighbors, friends or church members, Justin says.

“This program is not for everyone,” Justin says. “For instance, those with the Oregon Health Plan do not qualify, because they have transportation provided through other means.”

Justin screens all applicants and partners with Marcelo Hernandez at the Clatsop Community Action Community Resource Desk in the lobby of the hospital. The resource desk connects people to social services they might need, such as housing, food, medical assistance and more.

“Marcelo plays a vital role,” Justin says. Marcelo refers clients to Justin to see if there is a fit for the program.

Justin interviews potential clients to make sure they meet the income and transportation need requirements. He helps those who do not qualify to find other transportation. “For those on the Oregon Health Plan, we try to make a seamless transition to the Columbia Pacific CCO so as not to stress applicants,” Justin says.

Community Connections has 406 clients in the database, of whom 160 are active in Clatsop County.


In addition to helping clients, Justin coordinates drivers to meet their needs. Trips around Seaside or Astoria are easy to organize compared to trips to Portland for five or six people at a time. Getting people to appointments on time and within the driver’s schedule is sometimes tricky.

Justin coordinates doctor visits and even calls providers to shift appointments to benefit the patient, so they’re not hit with stress, he says.

Medical appointments have priority, but drivers can deliver passengers to the library, bank, post office, gym or other place that encourages health and wellness.

The program asks for seven days’ notice to schedule a ride, and all rides are subject to the availability of drivers. All services are free.

Ocean Crest donated a 15-passenger van for trips with larger groups. The van is mainly used to travel to the Portland metro area.

Volunteers and two paid part-time drivers logged 66,402 miles in 2018.

“Providence Community Connections is funded by Seaside hospital, but it relies on the gift of time from volunteers in the community,” Justin says.

For information about services or to volunteer, call 503-717-7766.

Members of the Columbia Pacific CCO can receive free rides to non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) through NW Rides. To arrange a ride, call 888-793-0439, up to 30 days in advance and at least two days before your appointment. There is no cost.