Bluebonnet Trails Community Services launched a new program providing free rides to medical and mental health appointments for veterans, through a partnership with ride-sharing company RideAustin, in late November.
Bluebonnet offers veteran services in addition to psychiatric care, primary health care, intellectual and developmental disability services, substance abuse disorder treatment, early childhood intervention and crisis services around Central Texas, said Tiffany González, director of mental health for Bluebonnet. The nonprofit is based in Round Rock and also has a branch in Cedar Park, which does not offer primary healthcare.
In November Bluebonnet began handing out vouchers for the veterans free ride program.
“This pilot program’s focus is in the southern parts of Williamson County—North Austin, Pflugerville, Cedar Park, Round Rock—for the initial launch,” said Bobbi Kommineni, vice president of strategic programs and operations for RideAustin. “As the program grows we will expand the coverage across Williamson County.”
Bluebonnet was awarded a Texas Veterans + Family Alliance Grant for June 2017-May 2018 from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, González said.
She said the grant funds allow the organization to help veterans and their families with transportation—such as the RideAustin partnership—and other programs, including equine therapy, couples’ retreats, peer support classes and counseling services.
The ride program will bring veterans, free of charge, to psychiatric, therapy, medical and dental appointments in the Cedar Park area, González said.
“We receive and match grant funds to purchase vouchers through RideAustin at a discounted rate,” González said. “We then provide the vouchers to veterans and their families based on need.”
She said for individuals to qualify for the program, needs are assessed and veteran status is verified through a peer coordinator interview, Veterans Health Identification Card issued by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs or DD 214, which is a report of separation form certifying release or discharge from active duty, according to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration website.
Qualifying veterans will be able to request a ride through the RideAustin phone application using a unique code provided by Bluebonnet, Kommineni said.
Area veterans and their families can learn more about the free ride program and how to qualify by contacting Jaime Cervantez, veteran peer coordinator for Bluebonnet, at 830-305-1882.
Additionally Bluebonnet must match each grant dollar spent with volunteer hours or in-kind or monetary donations, so the organization is looking for volunteers and donations to support the veteran program, including the RideAustin partnership, González said. Those interested can call 512-853-0312 for more information.
Additional reporting contributed through Community Impact Newspaper’s partnership with Fox 7 News.