New transportation program aims to help Linden residents access health care, job training

By Ken Gordon
The Columbus Dispatch

Published 6:48 AM, January 24, 2022

Starting Feb. 1, many residents of Columbus’ 43211 ZIP code will be able to get free rides to health care appointments and job training programs, thanks to the next phase of a partnership with CVS Health.

The drug store chain announced a pilot program for the ZIP code, which is mostly in the Linden neighborhood, in which people can access rides with Uber Health through several nonprofit groups, including PrimaryOne Health, a system of community health centers, and Eckerd Connects, a workforce training agency.

It is one of five cities in which CVS Health is investing to address social determinants of health in underserved communities. In the 43211 ZIP code, about 40% of residents live in poverty, according to Charleta Tavares, CEO of PrimaryOne.

“I’m excited about these partnerships, and I hope we have healthier individuals,” Tavares said.

How Linden residents can arrange for free rides to appointments

Tavares said PrimaryOne has two mobile health centers, which will be spending more time in the 43211 ZIP code. But for people who need to get to an appointment, they will be able to call PrimaryOne and the nonprofit will arrange a ride from Uber Health.

Tavares said PrimaryOne received $25,000 from CVS Health for the first year of the partnership. CVS overall has committed $260,000 to the five Columbus nonprofit groups involved, according to a news release, and the commitment is for five years.

The other local partners are Mid-Ohio Food Collective, Local Matters and Columbus State Community College.

Eileen Howard Boone, a CVS Health vice president, said Local Matters will be visiting the Rosewind housing complex in Linden and conducting programs such as teaching teenagers how to cook a meal.

In September 2020, CVS Health announced the first phase of its plan, committing $13.7 million to rehabilitate Rosewind, which is located east of Cleveland Avenue and north of 11th Avenue and managed by the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority.

“We’re trying to leverage the investment we have already made and provide wrap-around services to ensure people can get health care and have access to food and job training,” Boone said.

Social determinants of health basically means that a person’s health is not based solely on the quality of health care located nearby. Health is greatly affected by a person’s access to healthy food, by their income and by stress levels, which can be affected by race, poverty or the safety of their neighborhood.

CVS Health is also piloting similar programs in Atlanta; Fresno, California; Hartford, Connecticut; and Phoenix.

Boone said CVS Health will monitor the programs and perhaps make some tweaks in a year or two. The hope, she said, is to eventually extend the commitment past five years.

“This is a new level of connection with underserved communities, and the response from the nonprofits we approached has been extraordinary,” she said.