Meningitis: New Program Gives Rides to Work for People with Disabilities

Rise is a nonprofit organization that gives support to the disabled. Its services include rides by Lyft, the popular ride-sharing company. The funds are then reimbursed by their riders’ Medicaid waivers. One client of Rise, Reagan Anderson, told Disability Scoop about the problems he has had reserving taxis to take him to his job as a dishwasher at Famous Dave’s.

Reagan survived a brain injury but cannot drive. His father told Disability Scoop that he has had twenty-eight brain operations. The last surgery occurred in 2017.

Reagan had bleeding in his brain at birth and then was found to have a buildup of fluid in his brain (hydrocephalus). Mike Anderson, Reagan’s father, added that Reagan also had meningitis which required hospitalization for the first seven months of his life.

His Job is His World

Reagan’s life revolves around his two to three shifts each week. He loves the job which he found through Facebook. Reagan also enjoys the company of his co-workers.

Jeff Gray, general manager of Famous Dave’s, has high praise for Reagan saying that he is reliable, shows pride in his work, and never complains.

Reagan also loves interacting with the Lyft drivers who hail from far-away places such as Somalia, Thailand, and Ethiopia. Reagan keeps current with news from the drivers’ countries and discusses the happenings during his ride to work.

The trip from his home in Forest Lake, Minnesota to Famous Dave’s is only five miles, yet some drivers are unwilling to drive that distance. Reagan is constantly worried about “no shows” that in the past have caused him last-minute anguish.

Reagan’s job coach at Rise, Andrew Owzarek, has to reserve a Lyft ride a month early and schedule the arrival time an hour early. However, drivers still occasionally cancel.

Dan Meyers, vocational evaluation director at Rise, told Disability Scoop that transportation is a common barrier faced by his clients. He said Forest Lake, population 20,000, seems to be affected the most.

A $100 Bill for a One Mile Trip

Director Meyers further states that Lyft is perhaps less reliable in Forest Lake because of the town’s small population. He points out that responses to rides are occasionally answered by centers from communities outside of Forest Lake resulting in trips of one or two miles costing upwards of $100.

The Reason for Lyft

Lyft was chosen as the company of choice by Rise in 2019. Rise executives considered Lyft’s customer service history, the thorough background checks Lyft performs for each driver, and especially that Lyft has shown an interest in working with nonprofit organizations.

The drivers are allowed to manage their own schedules. In addition to transporting Rise members, they may drive for the general public.

Rise hopes to increase the number of Lyft drivers in Forest Lake to assist Reagan and other people in the area who have disabilities.

Reagan does not intend to remain a dishwasher forever, as he is saving his earnings in a college fund. He plans to eventually apply for a nursing assistant certificate program.

Next year Reagan plans to enroll in a Specialty Healthcare program sponsored by Project SEARCH. It is a work transition internship for high school students who have disabilities.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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