Commissioners oppose state’s MATP changes

Legislative changes to a transportation program that serves the most vulnerable in the community were unanimously denounced during Wednesday’s Warren County Commissioners meeting.

What’s at stake is how the Medial Assistance Transportation Program is managed.

Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said that these are programs “that take persons with disabilities, seniors, to doctor appointments. These are people that are infirm that are not capable of driving and have a lot of other challenges.”

He said the Transit Authority of Warren County currently manages the program.

Eggleston explained that the human services fiscal code was amended just prior to passage of the state budget last summer. He said there was “no real deliberation over it” and “no one really understood what was happening.”

He said that the changes would “force the state to go to a brokerage model” which would “take local administration and delivery of service away from counties.”

TAWC and the county’s Department of Human Service have a joint agreement to manage the program and Eggleston said that the state is attempting to make it so that “some large corporation would take it over and the control and administration would be taken away from the county.”

He added that TAWC, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and transit authorities in Crawford and Erie counties and alleged that the change is “going to result in loss of consistency of service for individuals and persons with disabilities.”

He added that Pennsylvania has one of the top-third most efficient MATP programs in the country.

“This is largely due to local coordination (to) more quickly manage the calls,” Eggleston said. “The concern is what with loss of local management, calls are going to get dropped.”

He also alleged that savings proposed as part of the program were debunked in a study by the Pa. Public Transportation Association.”

“My personal opinion,” he concluded, is this is “going to result in a reduction of services.

He asked the rest of the board to approve a resolution expressing their opposition to the change. The resolution would then be sent to the region’s legislators and the governor’s office as well as other counties.

“Yesterday, a state senator introduced an amendment that is going to put this on hold for the Department of Human Services to have time to review it,” Eggleston said. “This is a good first stop in trying to advocate for that.”

“Many of our folks that we serve at Human Services… elderly, lower-income families, disables,” Forest-Warren Human Services Director Ronna Tipton said, “utilize this service…. We definitely oppose this.”

Wendy Hollabaugh, executive director of Warren County Transit Authority, said that this issue is “going to be a big fight for us.”

“I think that anytime there’s a situation that involves the state (and it) isn’t what’s in the best interest of the county, it’s important we let state officials know how we feel,” Commissioner Cindy Morrison said. “This is what the resolution will do. I can’t understand what the need is of this other than saving some money… I don’t really see the need for this.”

The resolution was approved unanimously.