Stone County residents have more transportation options through Oats transit starting this month. On top of the usual routes offered, the non-profit transportation corporation is now providing express routes from Stone County to adjoining counties every Tuesday through Thursday. Additionally, in cooperation with the Stone County Developmental Disabilities Board, Oats is providing transportation for individuals with developmental disabilities to day programs, sheltered workshops and community employment.
The express routes differ from typical Oats options in that individuals are picked up and dropped off at specific areas, rather than getting door-to-door service. Rene Frazier, an area manager for the southwest region with Oats Transit, says “Express routes have designated stops, like say a gas station where people get on the bus and then we take them on into the city of Branson, whether that is for medical appointments, employment, business, etcetera.”
Additionally, new routes are being taken so that people with developmental disabilities can work or attend day programs, such as the sheltered workshop in Christian County.
“Through the end of 2018, the Stone County Developmental Disabilities Board has contracted with Oats to provide transportation for folks with developmental disabilities to go from their homes to a job or day program,” says LaDella Thomas, the Executive Director of the Stone County Developmental Disabilities Board (SCDDB).
“We’ve agreed to pay up to $17,159 through December 31, 2018, to provide transportation services. Honestly, we hope they come back to us and need more money because there are so many people needing their services. For 2019, a three year contract will go up for bids in accordance with our bidding policy,” Thomas said.
Frazier says, “Those services are subsidized with Federal funds to keep costs down for the Stone County board.”
Oats will bill SCDDB “only for those individuals that are qualified under the contract with the board,” Frazier said. “But, because the bus is there, unless it is full, we also have the extra space available to the general public as well.”
As of the last report provided to the SCDDB, there are 101 children and adults with developmental disabilities in Stone County.
“Up until the 2016 initiative, there was no money to provide services like transportation, therapies, habilitation, or anything that was not just basic care for those 101 individuals,” Thomas said. “They have always had case management that provided basic care, but nothing that worked to improve their lives,” she said.
“Surrounding counties have robust programs already set up through their boards,” Thomas said. “Being able to collect the funds in Stone County will allow those programs to be set up here. But, given that it can take upwards of 20 or 30 years to get some of that infrastructure set up, we are contracting with other providers and non-profits to provide those programs in the county.
“We are working with music therapy services and sporting programs out of Springfield to bring their programs into Stone County. We kind of have to sell them on it and bring them in and let them know there are people that need their services. So far, the dozen or so agencies we’ve been talking to have been very open to expanding into Stone County,” Thomas said.
The services provided by Oats are not just for the developmentally disabled, however. “It’s always important to remind people that we provide services not just for senior citizens and the disabled,” Frazier said. “We provide those transportation services for the general public. Anyone can ride the bus.”
To schedule a ride through Oats, call (417) 887-9272 or 800-770-6287 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Be sure to call well in advance of any appointments to be sure you have a place on the bus.
Written by: Isaac Estes-Jones
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