SMITHERS — A planned business could make getting to and fro for veterans and the elderly in the Upper Kanawha Valley area and beyond significantly easier.
At a recent meeting of the UKV Regional Planning Commission, representatives from Right Path Transportation Company unveiled their ambitions to be operational in the UKV later this year.
Owner Milford Zeigler, a service-connected veteran, and chief operating officer Tammy Pritt-Jones briefed commission members recently on Right Path, whose business plan labels it as "a standard and certified transportation service provider with a niche in non-emergency transportation." Pritt-Jones has 20 years of non-emergency medical transportation and Medicaid experience, and the company's executive vice president, Josh Strother, boasts two decades of experience in the health care, health insurance, communications, training and non-emergency medical transportation industries.
The minority-owned business aims to have offices in Montgomery and Smithers, as well as later adding satellite offices in other parts of the state. Once it gets established, Right Path plans to operate a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week non-emergency transportation service which reaches throughout West Virginia, its business plan notes. "Our main office will be open round the clock to attend to clients and fill a void in the current NEMT market in West Virginia, which is deficient in after-hours transportation providers," the plan reads.
At the regional planning commission meeting, Zeigler told members, "There's no mistake why we're doing this here. I understand ... veterans are not getting services they need to get, and senior citizens are forgotten. We'll work diligently to get it done."
Pritt-Jones said Monday the project still doesn't have a concrete start-up date, but they're shooting for sometime this coming fall.
"We're not anticipating anything before September or October (of this year)," she said. "We are still looking for funding."
Pritt-Jones and Zeigler estimate they need nearly $70,000 available to fund the first month of operation, as well as having some more money in hand as a cushion. They've had some commitments and are still actively seeking grant funding from a variety of sources, including the Kanawha County Commission's UKAN Upper Kanawha Valley Business Assistance Program, which was unveiled in March. That program is geared toward helping create economic development in eastern Kanawha County. According to news reports at the time, the program includes forgivable loans of up to $10,000 for businesses with an employee roster of 25 or less. The applicants must stay in the UKV for at least two years for the loan to be forgiven.
According to the plan, Right Path will seek funding sources which will allow it to partner with programs serving veterans, such as Prestera's Buddy-to-Buddy program. Buddy-to-Buddy is a peer-to-peer veteran program developed in collaboration with the W.Va. National Guard, Prestera Center and the University of Michigan Depression Center, with mentorship from the Michigan Buddy-to-Buddy Volunteer Veteran Program.
Right Path also wants to serve elderly, disabled and disadvantaged individuals in completing such tasks as grocery shopping, conducting business at government offices or other tasks. The business has identified a need for "non-Medicaid hospital discharge transportation services" and hopes to enter into agreements with hospitals to provide reliable transportation when discharge planning is done for private insurance or Medicare patients.
Still another potential service area is nursing home facilities.
At the outset, drivers will be hired to transport clients via seven mid-size sedans and two para-lift vans, which will be either rented or leased. The fleet would expand as necessary.
Drivers will face a drug test and undergo a check of their background and driving records, Zeigler said. The process will be "very selective."
For further coverage on Right Path and other topics discussed at the regional planning meeting, follow The Montgomery Herald.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @gb_scribe