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Transportation crisis for disabled people in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS – A transportation crisis for people with disabilities in the St. Louis area. Disabled people have been left without rides for things like jobs and day programs because the state is trying to save money. Families say it's a nightmare.

Following an initial report on Monday, Missouri State Representative Bob Burns (D - St. Louis County) is calling for action.

Fox 2/News 11 confirmed again Tuesday that disabled people were left without rides for things like jobs and day programs.

Holly McClerren, 32, who has Angelman Syndrome, missed her day program at United Cerebral Palsy because she didn’t have a ride. Her mom, who works as a nurse at a St. Louis County hospital, was hoping to be able to take her this rest of the week.

For more than a decade, OATS transportation not only provided rides for Holly and about 600 clients in the St. Louis area, but also a level of trust for the riders and their parents.

“I can say ‘Hi Don’ when [the driver] pulls up. We’ve had relationships with (the) OAT drivers where we’ve had them over for dinner,” Holly’s mom, Debbie, said.

Holly is unable to speak.

“I mean we have a relationship with them. So it’s pretty hurtful,” Debbie said.

It’s also been pretty hurtful for OATS. We’ve confirmed OATS laid off 17 drivers and two office workers after the Missouri Department of Mental Health (DMH) switched transportation providers this week: from Metro (Bi-State), which contracted with OATS for the service, to Logisticare, a transportation broker.

Logisticare has been unable to find enough drivers and properly equipped vans and buses to meet the need, families said.

“I’m going to fight to the death for these folks,” Burns said.

The state failed to increase the rate paid to OATS, an estimated $2.9 million per year, for close to 15 years, he said.

OATS, a nonprofit, was reportedly losing money providing the service.

“We can work together. This is something we ought to do bipartisan and do it for the good of the folks who really need this help,” Burns said.

“OATS was consistent. They were on time and reliable,” McClerren said. “Now we have nothing. We don’t even have a ride, let alone reliability.”

She's just been told there will be no rides this week.

Logisticare released the following statement:

“LogistiCare was selected to assist the state with an immediate gap in NEMT service following the departure of the prior transportation provider. As a result, we are expediting an operational plan to quickly and effectively address transportation services.”

Burns hopes to use emergency funds to possibly bring back OATS service.