Missouri Rural Health Association conference focuses on transportation

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COLUMBIA — Some rural Missourians often face barriers to health care, but a conference Tuesday and Wednesday is addressing one of the main ones.

The second annual Missouri Rural Health Association’s conference, called “Get Link’d,” focuses on transportation issues in rural communities and how to solve them.

President Toniann Richard said many people in Missouri do not have adequate access to transportation, but still need health care.

“We recognize that no matter where they are financially with regard to transportation, they still need to see a provider,” she said. “Our goal is that they get to see those providers on a much more frequent basis so that they can be well.”

Richard said the association hopes to reach that goal by helping people understand that health care and transportation are not separate pillars of care, but that they work together. She said she would like to see the conference attendants develop committees or initiatives to work with lawmakers for future legislation that provides funding and resources for transportation services.

One of Tuesday’s speakers was Paul Moore, the senior health policy advisor to the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. He said many people in rural communities, which he called "vulnerable populations," don’t even know how big the problem of inadequate transportation is.

“They say things like ‘It’s just always been this way for so long,’ so they don’t know it’s not like that everywhere,” Moore said. "It's time to do something about it."

The conference includes speakers, vendors and workshops that focus on collaborating health care and transportation providers. Speakers and attendants include representatives from legislative and government offices, like MoDOT and the Department of Health and Senior Services, and from transportation and health care providers, like OATS and CoxHealth.