Transportation disruption upsets disabled, after state switches provider

ST. LOUIS - A transportation crisis developed Monday for dozens of disabled people in the St. Louis area.

The state provides rides for things like jobs or special program. Fox 2/News 11 confirmed at least 40 of those people were left stranded.

It may have been double that number or more. A state official did not have a final total. It was especially hard on Robby Fisher, 28, of Affton.

We introduced you to him when his friend, music legend B.B. King passed away in 2015. Robby has Cerebral Palsy. For years has relied on rides from OATS, a nonprofit transportation provider sub-contracted with the State of Missouri Department of Mental Health (DMH) through Bi-State.

Robby's ride to the UCP, the United Cerebral Palsy Heartland branch, did not come today. At least 40 clients there did not have rides.

DMH just switched providers for a total of about 600 disabled clients in the St. Louis area.

A state official confirms “glitches” in the changeover.

A company called Logisticare is the new provider, sub-contracting through multiple ride services.

Robby’s parents took him to UCP.

He cried the whole way, they said. He missed his routine and his driver.

“[The driver] was a very, very, cool guy,” said Bob Fisher, Robby’s father. “He would joke with Robby. Robby would joke with him. They were good friends…it means a lot. This is part of his daily life. It revolves around the people he knows.”

OATS has an upgraded fleet of buses and first rate drivers, clients said. DMH has no money in the budget to increase the $2.9 million it paid for the service the past year, a state official said.

OATS has reportedly been operating at a loss under the state contract for years.

“You get to them and you trust them. That’s the big thing and you know if they care or not. These people care…if our elected officials had to ride in these buses, they’d be riding in the best they could get,” Bob Fisher said.

Logisticare was working to iron out all of its day 1 problems in time for day 2, a state official said. The Fisher’s just want to go back to OATS and the way things were.

LogistiCare released the following statement:

We apologize to the affected employees and their families for the issues experienced during the recent transition of transportation services. At LogistiCare, every member and ride matters and we’re honored to have been selected by the Missouri Department of Mental Health to fulfill this important program in a time-sensitive situation. We are implementing an operations plan to better meet the members’ transportation needs.