WASHINGTON - Their mission is clear. "We're the safety net. We're there to make sure that transportation is not a barrier to health care for people," says Steven Craven, chairman of Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic.
Craven says the Leesburg, Va.-based non-profit has 650 volunteer pilots covering a 10-state area, from Pennsylvania down to North Carolina, west to Tennessee and also Michigan and Ohio. Craven says the group does about 100 Angel flights a month.
A different transportation need is growing for patients who are poor. "What's really grown is our ground transport program, which we call 'Angel Bus.' We use that when the distances are not far enough for small airplanes," Craven says.
He says they had noticed that about 60 percent of patients at free clinics who were being referred to specialists did not show up for their appointments.
"We wondered why that is. We discovered is because they don't have transportation - they don't have $20 for a bus ticket. So this really opened our eyes," says Craven.
Angel Bus is catching on, Craven says: "What we're seeing is a huge growth of ground transportation for patients not only in Virginia but nationwide."
Next month, he adds, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.,will announce that Craven's group will be the official provider of Angel Bus services to his state. "We're really excited about that," Craven says.
Angel Flight is taking on even more roles, reaching out to wounded warriors through "Air Compassion for Veterans." He says, "We help wounded warriors that have to travel for medical purposes when DOD (the Department of Defense) can't provide the transportation. And then older veterans that simply can't afford transportation."
He says they're transporting about 500 vets a month. They have another program called "Angel Canines for Wounded Warriors." Craven says when a solider is prescribed a service dog due to PTSD or TBI, "we'll fly the solider and an escort to be trained with the dog and then we fly them home." He says they are doing quite a few of those trips every month now.
"It's truly a privilege to be able to help our wounded warriors and veterans," Craven says.
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