Kansas Peer Driver Program

The UnitedHealthcare Community & State Peer Driver Program connects members with behavioral health conditions to non-emergency wraparound transportation services. In partnership with Johnson County Mental Health Center (JCMHC) in Johnson County, Kansas, the program was established to help members get to work, school, social services, and employment, as well as mental health and medical appointments.

The program began in 2016 as a UnitedHealthcare pilot developed by Dartmouth's Health Care Executive team, consisting of several UnitedHealthcare leaders and administered by the Community & State myRide team. Since its development, the program has helped assess the broader impact of transportation on patient outcomes, well-being and health care costs. It has also informed how UnitedHealthcare provides user-centered non-emergency transportation benefits for Medicaid members.

These services help members get to work, school, social services, and employment, as well as mental health and medical appointments.

“The program works to inform workforce development opportunities for individuals who have faced long-term challenges as a result of their conditions,” said Kevin Sparks, Chief Executive Officer, Community Plan of Kansas. “It serves individuals who may have never been able to drive a car before, or have never been in a financial position to purchase their own vehicle.”

This whole-person care approach requires not just the utilization of innovative health care management but supportive service interventions that impact both a person's health and the quality of their life.

"Improved health care cost outcomes and quality of service are objectives that can be achieved through an extensive implementation of preventive care, early intervention strategies and evaluating the ways the social determinants of health affect individuals,” said Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, Senior Vice President of Integrated Health and Social Services at Community & State. “This whole-person care approach requires not just the utilization of innovative health care management but supportive service interventions that impact both a person's health and the quality of their life. Homelessness, isolation, lack of education or employment are barriers to wellness that a whole person approach must address to create successful outcomes." A key component for maintaining and achieving successful member outcomes is getting the patient to and from medical care and related activities.

One of the unique aspects of JCMHC is their commitment to creating employment opportunities for behavioral health patients who want to work, and their wraparound support through innovative mobility management strategies.

JCMHC, a participating accountable care organization (ACO) selected by UnitedHealthcare Community & State, is a leader in treating the whole-person — an approach that is critical to helping improve health outcomes for our members. One of the unique aspects of JCMHC is their commitment to creating employment opportunities for behavioral health patients who want to work, and their wraparound support through innovative mobility management strategies. Building on their foundation, the Peer Driver Program currently employs 53 member drivers who use their personal experiences managing behavioral health conditions as a tool to help others.

Chelsea, a peer driver for five years and a UnitedHealthcare member, transports a behavioral health patient to work.

Chelsea, a peer driver for five years and a UnitedHealthcare member, transports a behavioral health patient to work.

Even though public transit is available in parts of Johnson County, jobs are often located far from bus routes, making lack of transportation a significant barrier.

Even though public transit is available in parts of Johnson County, jobs are often located far from bus routes, making lack of transportation a significant barrier. While the Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) program is an option for Medicaid plan members to get to and from medical care, the service requires a three-day advance scheduling. It also does not service urgent needs and non-medical destinations related to employment, education and training, social and financial services, housing and more.

When members enroll in the Peer Driver Program, transportation is provided by a trained team of consumer peer drivers who have received treatment from JCMHC. These drivers are trained in crisis intervention, customer service and serve as a critical link to providing a feedback loop to the vocational rehabilitation and care management teams at JCMHC. Chelsea, a peer driver, shared that she likes driving "because it's therapy and it gets me out into the community and interacting with the clients. It also helps me feel better about myself because the clients understand where I'm coming from and have experienced the same stuff." For the drivers as well as for patients, the program provides a way to socialize and build their own community and social support network.

For the drivers, as well as for patients, the program provides a way to socialize and build their own community and social support network.

Members are provided transportation to clinical sites, health maintenance activities and to the important services that impact social determinants of health including food and nutrition resources, employment opportunities and training, and cultural, social and recreational destinations. Since many members with behavioral health conditions often experience difficulties communicating due to anxiety, depression and other conditions, the program simplifies transportation scheduling through a one-call model that connects the plan member directly to a peer who serves as transportation staff.

Since it began, the program has measured health outcomes for the members who receive peer driver transportation through JCMHC. “We are actively monitoring reductions in missed appointments and emergency room utilization, as well as the ability for members to obtain and maintain employment,” said Sparks. “Moving forward, we will continue monitoring these areas as we explore opportunities for improvement and growth.”

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