RIDE UNITED NC Call Center Launches To Provide Low-Income North Carolinians With Free Roundtrip Rides to COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments
Despite the increasing availability of the COVID-19 vaccine in North Carolina, transportation access continues to be a barrier for underserved communities statewide. RIDE UNITED NC announced today that its call center is now available to support low-income North Carolina residents needing roundtrip transportation to COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Eligible individuals can call 1-844-771-RIDE starting today.
The statewide initiative was launched last month by United Way of the Greater Triangle in partnership with Lyft, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC), and North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), in support of the North Carolina COVID-19 Public Health Coalition.
The call center has the capacity to support 1,500 calls per day for eligible individuals who do not have access to the Lyft app, those without bank accounts, and seniors. It will also work with NCDOT to supplement transportation needs in other communities. The call center is/has:
● Available Monday through Friday, 8 am to 8 pm ● Bi-lingual capabilities ● Open to those who are age 55+, uninsured, unbanked, and/or members of households considered low-income by the federal definition
The call center is made possible with support from Mako Documents, Pillar Consulting, and Wilcox Distributions. The entire RIDE UNITED NC program is made possible by investments totaling more than $925,000 from Bank of America, Blue Cross NC, Blue Cross NC Foundation, Coastal Credit Union, Duke Energy, and Duke University and Duke Health. These donations support the North Carolina COVID-19 Public Health Coalition and will help provide rides statewide, including in Duke’s home county of Durham.
“Providing transportation options for safe, efficient, and equitable access to vaccines is critical in curbing the spread of COVID-19 and reflects Duke University and Duke Health’s commitment to supporting the health and well-being of community members in the Triangle and across the state,” said Stelfanie Williams, Vice President for Durham and Community Affairs.
“Free transportation services are essential for North Carolina to meet its goal of providing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and getting ahead of the pandemic,” said Secretary Mandy Cohen. “We very much value the partnership and generosity of everyone who is contributing to RIDE UNITED NC.”
RIDE UNITED NC also supplements existing efforts by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), NCDOT, and local transit agencies to provide public transportation services to vaccination sites.
“Ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines starts with providing convenient and free transportation options to all North Carolinians,” said NCDOT Secretary Eric Boyette. “We commend United Way of the Greater Triangle and the many private and non-profit contributors to RIDE UNITED NC for providing an additional transportation solution to further enhance access to vaccine sites.”
Pillar Consulting, founded by epidemiologist Dr. Bahby Banks — along with public support from NCDHHS and Secretary Mandy Cohen — will also provide key community health literacy sessions to support North Carolinians in making informed decisions regarding vaccine uptake.
“We are honored to support RIDE UNITED NC by helping to bridge health literacy gaps related to COVID-19 prevention and vaccine education. This pandemic has shone a bright light on the impact of deeply rooted inequities on the most vulnerable in our state; it has also demonstrated the necessity of clarity and creativity in health communication,” said Dr. Banks. “These health literacy sessions will serve as a means to engage and educate North Carolinians so that they can make the best decisions for their health.”
Pillar Consulting also has the “Not A Host” (or N.A.H.) campaign that has leveraged digital and community engagement to offer culturally engaging and fact-based information about COVID-19 and vaccines for the past year.
Wilcox Distributions, which was founded by former NBA player and North Carolina native Chris Wilcox, will support strategic marketing and communications to North Carolina’s rural and underserved communities.
“My combined NBA and entrepreneurial experiences allow me to do what I’m most passionate about. I am an advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. RIDE UNITED NC is a must-do, and well-needed initiative that aligns perfectly with my company’s mission, and my purpose and passion in life,” said Wilcox. I am truly honored to be a part of the RIDE UNITED NC team.”
In addition to the public call center, United Way has also partnered with the North Carolina Community Action Association (NCCAA) and the NC Department of Transportation to identify nonprofits that serve communities of color, seniors, and the underinsured. These organizations will help educate individuals about the vaccination process and provide ride codes that can be used to access transportation to already scheduled appointments. Regional United Ways also involved in supporting RIDE UNITED NC’s efforts include United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, United Way of the Cape Fear Area, United of Cumberland County, United Way of Onslow County, and United Way of Pitt County.
“North Carolina has a significant number of older adults, low-income individuals and others who may be at higher risk of contracting the virus,” said Sharon C. Goodson, Executive Director of the North Carolina Community Action Association. “Many of these people do not drive, aren’t located near public transportation and live in rural communities with limited access to vaccination sites. We are pleased to partner with United Way to provide transportation to help make vaccinations more accessible to our most vulnerable populations.”
For more information about RIDE UNITED NC, go to United Way of the Greater Triangle’s website.