For some senior citizens in Brick Township, life-saving dialysis treatments come with a conundrum: how to get to the office.
“Our needs assessment for Brick Township’s seniors had this as our number one need,” said Joanne Bergin, the township’s business administrator. “We meet a lot of their basic needs, like food, companionship, assistance with getting to doctors’ appointments – but we could never do dialysis because of the enormous amount of time involved in that. It was like we could only do dialysis or everything but dialysis.”
The need for transportation to treatment was highlighted after Brick, through a grant process, was able to purchase its small fleet of Senior Shuttle buses. While the shuttles have grown exceedingly popular with seniors, the hours involved in receiving dialysis treatments just wasn’t a feasible option, though the need was clear. This led Bergin and her colleagues to develop a business plan in hopes of catching the attention of a higher-placed government agency that could fund such an effort.
The federal omnibus spending bill, expected to be signed shortly by President Joe Biden, includes that funding. The program was included in the bill by U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-3), who will represent Brick Township until the new year, when the congressional district shifts to U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4).
The $250,000 included in the bill will fund the purchase of two new dedicated shuttles for dialysis transportation, drivers and a medical aid.
“Since dialysis treatment schedules are multiple times throughout the week and of significant duration, the current system of transportation in the Township and County cannot accommodate rides to the dialysis treatment centers,” Kim’s office said in an e-mail. “This leaves many seniors struggling to access life-sustaining medical treatment for their chronic condition. This program will provide a reliable service to safely transport seniors in our community to and from the medical care they need.”
Bergin said seniors who cannot drive were missing crucial treatments.
“A lot of seniors need to go for six hours, but they can only go for three because they can’t get a ride at the right time,” she said. “So some people were not getting treatment at all, while others were not getting sufficient treatment.”
Bergin’s office coordinated with dialysis providers in town to ensure that the shuttle schedules will be able to accommodate patients.
“We’re going to be the first town in Ocean County to do this,” said Bergin. “We got a ton of support from Senior Services, from the county and Congressman Kim’s office. We’re really excited.”
After the federal measure is signed into law, Brick officials will seek bids to purchase two buses – one for the north side of town and one for the south side – and begin the service once the vehicles arrive and drivers are hired.