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America's 'Radical Elders' continue their work for fairness, justice; SCOTUS upholds law disarming domestic abusers; Workplace adoption benefits help families, communities; Report examines barriers to successful post-prison re-entry in NC.

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A congresswoman celebrates Biden protections for mixed status families, Louisiana's Ten Commandments law faces an inevitable legal challenge, and a senator moves to repeal the strict 19th century anti-obscenity and anti-abortion Comstock Act.

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A Minnesota town claims the oldest rural Pride Festival while rural educators say they need support to teach kids social issues, rural businesses can suffer when dollar stores come to town and prairie states like South Dakota are getting help to protect grasslands.

WI hospital closures add urgency to need for volunteer drivers

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Wednesday, January 24, 2024   

This week, a Midwest health care system announced the closure of two hospitals of two hospitals in western Wisconsin. Those who help transport older people to medical appointments said the situation underscores the need for volunteer drivers.

The pending closures are in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls. They are among the many areas served by the New Freedom Transportation Program from the Center for Independent Living. People with disabilities, frail elders and veterans are given rides to the doctor, grocery store and for other basic needs.

Bobbi Hegna, director of transportation at the Center for Independent Living-Western Wisconsin, said the roster of volunteer drivers has had difficulty recovering from the pandemic.

"We have some counties that there are no drivers," Hegna pointed out. "We're constantly recruiting 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

The closures also include some primary and specialty care locations. Hegna noted many patients will have their appointments on the same day at other providers, putting more pressure on existing drivers. As they call for more volunteers, Hegna hopes the Legislature will consider stronger funding for transportation and similar support programs.

Jim Flaherty, associate state director of communications for AARP Wisconsin, said there is real concern having fewer providers will affect older residents in rural areas, which have aging populations. He emphasized closing gaps will require community involvement. Flaherty added telehealth is a good option, and infrastructure needs to catch up.

"Wisconsin has a great need for stronger, high-speed broadband service," Flaherty observed. "It's got to be affordable and it's got to be accessible."

Gov. Tony Evers and the Republican-led Legislature have been at odds over how much state money to commit to current broadband efforts, with more federal support coming in. As for the closures, Hospital Sisters Health System said they will likely happen over the spring as it winds down services and transitions patient care to other providers.

Disclosure: AARP Wisconsin contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Consumer Issues, Health Issues, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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