Service restored for rural public transportation provider OATS

ST. LOUIS - Big news in a follow-up to our exclusive reports on a transportation crisis for a group of disabled individuals in the St. Louis area. A new provider of specialized rides took over this week. there are people who still aren't being picked up. Fox 2 has confirmed that a deal's just been struck to fix it.

The Missouri Department of Mental Health (DMH) changed providers this week and not all of the people were being picked up.

After our reports, a new deal was struck to fix that.

“I can’t believe it happened so quickly,” said mother Debbie McClerren.

Come Monday, her daughter, 32-year-old Holly, will again have a ride to her day-program at United Cerebral Palsy (UCP).

Holly is in a wheelchair and cannot speak. For more than a decade, OATS transportation provided rides for her and about 600 clients in the St. Louis area.

The same goes for another UCP client, 28-year-old Robby Fisher.

Perhaps more than the rides, they miss the drivers.

Robby’s dad:

“He was a very, very, cool guy,” Robby’s dad, Robert Fisher, said of the driver. “He would joke with Robby. Robby would joke with him. They were good friends.”

OATS provided the service through Metro.

Metro terminated its contract with DMH because the state budget did not allow for a rate increase beyond the close to $3 million-a-year being spent, a state official said.

OATS, a non-profit, was reportedly providing the service at a loss.

The new provider, Logisticare, has been unable to find enough drivers and properly equipped vans and buses for about 50 UCP clients, families said.

The new deal will bring OATS back after our reports caught the attention of state lawmakers.

Upon hearing the news, OATS drivers asked for their old routes back, an official said.

They miss their friends like Holly and Robby.

“I realized and found out there’s been a lot of other people working on this,” said State Rep. Bob Burns of St. Louis County. “[Your reports] brought it to the forefront…if we can’t help these folks who need these rides then we shouldn’t be in business.”

“Thank you for lighting a fire under it because the voice of 1 doesn’t make much noise,” said Debbie McClerren.

Still, even without the power of speech, Holly and Robby’s voices have been heard loud and clear.