Guest Blog: An innovative response to a community need

By Julie Honekamp, CEO, SNAP

I remember it like it was yesterday: that voice coming from the other side of the room saying, “I really don’t feel well and may need help.”

Even though I had been sound asleep, I was out of bed in a flash and scrambling to help find clothing, wallets, glasses and medicine. What I remember most from that late night scare are the many emotions connected with that experience: fear for my loved one, a sense of chaos mixed with uncertainty and the hope that everything would be okay.

As my family’s situation unfolded, and the emergency gave way to the typical wait-and-see that always seems to accompany a health scare, I was reminded of how critical transportation is during a time of need.

With an aim documented by the City of Spokane Mayor’s Fires Service Task Team of “consider(ing) alternative transportation to alternate locations other than ER for evaluation,” SNAP joined forces with the City of Spokane, Providence Health Care, Amerigroup and Group Health Cooperative to begin planning for a new Spokane Cabulance Pilot Program.

As we began to share this proposed pilot program, we were asked over and over, “What is a cabulance?” In a nutshell, a cabulance is a voluntary transportation option for patients, after being seen by paramedics, who are believed to have a low-acuity condition like a common cold or sprained ankle. A cabulance would transport patients to a qualified urgent care site where they could receive the care they need in a timely, appropriate and potentially more affordable setting. Additionally, a cabulance would be available to transport a client home after services are provided. In some cases, a cabulance may be an actual taxicab; in other cases, it may be a wheel chair accessible van.

It is estimated that in 2013, 29% of City of Spokane Fire & Emergency Management Service responses (not counting motor vehicle accidents)—or 7,700—low-acuity calls were all transported to area emergency departments. Additionally, low-acuity calls were up 10% from the same period in 2013. A cabulance is part of a community solution that provides people with the right level of care, at the right time by the appropriate health care resource.

As Spokane’s designated nonprofit community action agency, SNAP served 43,000 low-income individuals in 2014. With the changing nature of health care, whole person health is a phrase that we are hearing more and more often. Adequate housing, access and transportation to health care and adequate food are just some of the factors now being considered as part of whole person health.

SNAP and our cabulance pilot partners are currently gathering funds to launch a two-year pilot project with an early 2016 start, and we need your help. We welcome your support, participation and interest in this innovative program.

Please feel free to get involved by calling Julie Honekamp at SNAP: 456-SNAP.