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WHISTLESTOP LAUNCHES NON-EMERGENCY MEDICAL TRANSPORTATIONWhistlestop Will Provide Routine and Specialized Medical Appointment Transportation to Eligible Medi-Cal Participants in Marin County 

New Transportation Service Launches After Successful Missed Appointment Reduction Service (MARS) Pilot Program, In Partnership with Marin Community Clinics 

San Rafael, Calif. (July 16, 2020) Whistlestop, a San Rafael-based nonprofit that promotes the independence, well-being and quality of life for older adults and people living with disabilities, today announced the addition of Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) for Medi-Cal participants to its list of specialized transportation services. With this new transportation service, Whistlestop will provide routine and specialized medical appointment transportation to eligible participants that are covered by Medi-Cal in Marin County. Participants may request NEMT for a variety of medical-related reasons, including preventive care visits, surgical treatment appointments and procedures, dialysis treatment, and prenatal, substance abuse, dental and vision care.

“At Whistlestop we recognize the critical role transportation plays not only in access to care but also in improving health outcomes,” said Erick Villalobos, general manager, transportation services at Whistlestop. “It can be difficult and costly to arrange transportation for vital doctor’s appointments or medical procedures. In addition, the total cost of missed healthcare appointments in the United States every year is an astronomical $150 billion. Whistlestop’s new NEMT service will help ensure that eligible participants in Marin County have access to proper medical care while also helping medical providers to recoup lost revenue from missed appointments.” 

Access to reliable non-emergency medical transportation continues to be one of the biggest barriers to care for older adults and people living with chronic illnesses. Every year 3.6 million Americans miss doctor appointments due to a lack of reliable transportation (source: American Hospital Association), and no-show rates are as high as 30% nationwide (source: SCI Solutions). Furthermore, a study commissioned by the Medical Transportation Access Coalition found that missed doctor’s appointments led to medical complications and expensive medical costs. Primary study findings uncovered that 58% of nearly 1,000 beneficiaries surveyed reported that they would not be able to make it to medical appointments without NEMT. Additionally, 10% of surveyed NEMT participants reported that they would die or probably would die if they did not have the transportation services they currently receive. 

In July 2017, Whistlestop conducted a proof of concept pilot program with Marin Community Clinics for Missed Appointment Reduction Service (MARS). During the pilot, more than 650 clinic appointments were kept due to the newly available transportation. “One of the largest barriers for our clients is safe, reliable transportation,” said Dr. Mitesh Popat, CEO of Marin Community Clinics. “Feedback about the MARS program was extremely positive among staff and patients who expressed their gratitude for how the pilot program made transportation to and from medical appointments seamless and easy. We’re thrilled that Whistlestop is expanding this critical and life-saving service for vulnerable residents of Marin.”

To qualify for NEMT services, an individual must be covered by Medi-Cal (Medicaid) and must have a physical or medical condition that makes it difficult for them to travel to a medical appointment by car, bus or train. If a person needs help getting out of the house, into a vehicle or to a medical office, she/he may qualify for NEMT services. Receiving NEMT services requires prior authorization from a medical provider.

In addition to NEMT services, Whistlestop will continue to offer its full suite of specialized transportation services, including special needs transportation services through its partnerships with Marin Transit and Golden Gate Transit, and free rides through its CarePool volunteer driver program.

For additional information on NEMT rides or other transportation services, please contact Whistlestop at 415-454-0964 or

MEDIA PLEASE NOTE: To request an interview with Erick Villalobos, please contact Gus Nodal at (415) 609-3438 or

Founded in 1954, Whistlestop is a leading community based nonprofit service organization in Northern California. Whistlestop prides itself on its responsiveness and its ability to evolve to meet the growing and changing needs of the communities it serves in Marin, San Francisco, and Sonoma counties. The organization’s vision is to ensure that every adult has the opportunity to age with independence, dignity, and grace. Whistlestop provides essential support services such as specialized transportation, nutrition, social connection, information, and assistance delivered through the power of human connection to a diverse population. In addition to serving the needs of older adults and individuals with disabilities, Whistlestop’s services have expanded to include other vulnerable populations such as those dealing with chronic illness, the homeless, and low-income families. For more information about Whistlestop and its services, please visit

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