Johnson County adds peer driver positions to provide transportation, support to Mental Health Center clients
During Thursday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, the Board of County Commissioners approved an authorization for six peer driver positions, which will serve clients of the Johnson County Mental Health Center.
These six positions will be an expansion to the Mental Health Center’s peer driver program. The peer driver program provides mental health clients with transportation to work, school and medical appointments.
The employees were already contracted with the county as peer drivers through UnitedHealthcare. UnitedHealthcare began providing the drivers in 2019, agreeing to fund their salaries, as well as vehicle lease, fuel and maintenance costs.
This authorization will make the drivers full-time employees with Johnson County Government. No county tax dollars will be used for these positions, as UnitedHealthcare will continue to provide all necessary funding.
Peer support drivers are individuals with lived mental health experience and can connect with their passengers on a peer basis. As a result, passengers develop trust and relationships with their drivers, leading to greater levels of empowerment and engagement.
“Today’s board action helps us expand a peer transportation program that has helped our clients get to work, school, and medical appointments for over three decades,” said Tim DeWeese, Johnson County Mental Health Center Director. “Having drivers with lived mental health experience provides support, connection, comfort and trust for our riders.”
The Mental Health Center’s peer driver program began in the early 1990s and has grown to include more than 30 peer drivers. In 2021, transportation services through the program provided more than 20,000 client rides, with 96% of rides arriving on time.
A recent study by UnitedHealthcare found that the peer driver support resulted in improved outcomes for employment, reduced no-show rates for medical employments and significant improvements to health outcomes.