Margaret Espar boards a Paladin, Inc. non-emergency transportation bus, ready to be safely taken to her medical appointment. As she gets onto the bus, she sees a familiar face, her former coworker and friend, Patricia Finney. They lost touch a while ago. Who knew that a simple thing, such as using Paladin, Inc. to get to medical appointments, would rekindle a friendship? Since 2014, Paladin has been offering non-emergency transportation services to residents like Espar and Finney, allowing them to have access to the care they need and a sense of independence.
“We provide transportation to medical appointments for people who are over 60 and/or medically fragile. This includes rides to pick up prescriptions, and as our schedule allows, we are able to help with trips to the grocery store or food pantry. Many of our clients receive several rides each week to dialysis or cancer treatments on a long term basis,” said Mari Chapala, Corporate Compliance Officer with Paladin, Inc.
And sometimes, friendships are made, especially with the drivers who connect with the patients so frequently throughout the week.
“It’s amazing that they look forward to seeing us and even if they’re having a bad day, they reward us with smiles. They see us as a part of their lives and sometimes even as a family,” said Brett Demorrow, who has been a transportation driver at Paladin for about a year.
Demorrow recently was recognized at a February Michigan City Board of Public works meeting for helping the fire department with a call to Imagination Station, which speaks to his dedication to patrons and his community.
Quality transportation, especially for those 60 and older is a growing need.
“REAL Services conducts a needs assessment for older adults on a yearly basis and transportation has been identified as one of the top needs in older adults. What Paladin does is just extremely important,” said Jen Wozniak, Director of Special Projects at REAL Services, who provides Paladin with Title 3b funding to help run the transportation services. “Our goal is to help older adults remain in their own home for as long as possible and to maintain their independence. This service is invaluable for that as it enables clients to attend their medical appointments and provides transportation for other essential needs, such as grocery shopping.”
For some La Porte County residents, this service is vital.
“Helping those people who need transportation to get better, it feels like they might not have gotten better without us transporting them for their treatments,” Demorrow said. “When you see a client get better and start to feel better, the life that they get back, they’re so appreciative and tell us that they’re blessed to have us. It’s amazing to see.”
Local health organizations know that they can depend on Paladin, Inc.’s non-emergency transportation services for patients who need continued healthcare, which helps the patient stay out of the hospital.
“Transportation challenges are becoming a growing concern in the community. Without transportation to follow-up appointments and required medical services, patients are at risk of readmission to the hospital, inability to have medical needs addressed leading to further decompensation of acute and/or chronic conditions and increased use of the emergency department and medical services,” said Jill Nygren, Vice President of Clinical Support Services for Franciscan Health Michigan City. “The services Paladin offers are very beneficial. Paladin remains proactive in looking at the growing needs and concerns within our community.”
Local organizations offer financial support for the program through grants. Organizations such as REAL Services, Franciscan Health, the Michigan City Community Enrichment Corporation, and the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte are just a few of the organizations whose continued support provides the necessary transportation services.
“What Paladin provides as far as transportation is invaluable. We must maintain some type of choice or option for people to get to their medical services. It is an essential service to our community.” said Maria Fruth, President, and CEO of the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte.
“We want to help people in any way that we can. Without this service, the people who most need it wouldn’t have door-to-door transportation services. They depend on Paladin, to know that they can get to the doctor appointments they need to,” said Susan Webster, Executive Administrator and board member of Michigan City Community Enrichment Corporation.
Paladin, Inc.’s overarching goal is to provide quality care to all they serve, and their non-emergency transportation services are one more way they can help their community.
“Paladin is committed to building people up, especially in their time of need. Our staff is dedicated and creative, striving to do the best we can for those reaching out to us for help,” Chapala said.
“People see a Paladin van and know that we’re here to help,” Demorrow said, “It’s great that people can see us and know that we’re here to help everybody.”
Espar and Finney are grateful for the opportunity to reconnect and for the quality care and services they receive from the top-notch team at Paladin, Inc.
"I would love to give a glowing review for Paladin. It's a wonderful service for the elderly. The drivers are great, compassionate and very helpful. They always come to my door and help me down my ramp. It's a wonderful organization, and I wouldn't know what to do without them!" Espar said.
"I wouldn't know what to do without this service. The drivers are always courteous and helpful. They always pick me up and take me to my doctor’s appointments without any issues. Paladin drivers are always on time. I feel safe when I'm with a Paladin driver," Finney added.