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Four major hospitals, health systems urge Southeast Michigan residents to vote YES for regional transit

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Regional transit will get us from one side of our region to another faster, reduce traffic, boost economic activity and keep talent here, and it can make us healthier.

That’s the word from Southeast Michigan’s major hospitals and health systems.

Henry Ford Health Systems, St. John Providence Health System, the Detroit Medical Center (DMC) and Beaumont Health say transportation plays a huge role in individual health and the health of our communities, and that is something that cannot continue to be overlooked.

So, the four hospitals and health systems have come together as part of the Citizens for Connecting our Communities ballot initiative effort and are urging residents in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne Counties to vote YES on regional transit this November.

If approved by voters this fall, the Regional Master Transit Plan will connect more than 2,600 miles, four million residents and nearly two million existing jobs across those counties. The goal is to replace today’s fragmented and limited options and ensure frequent, seamless service on major regional corridors.

The 20-year plan will see most new service completed within the first five years.

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“Ensuring reliable regional transit is one key way to help improve the health of the city, communities and the region,” says Conrad Mallett, Jr., chief administrative office for DMC. “We at DMC say Yes for Regional Transit because ensuring a public transit system that connects our communities is key to removing those roadblocks and gaining control over a chronic health condition or maintaining good health.”

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Right now many patients are either forced to miss or cancel their appoints because they lack transportation, says Bob Riney, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Henry Ford Health System and chair of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) Board of Trustees. Henry Ford Health System has six hospitals, dozens of medical centers, and nearly 27,000 employees and has long been part of the effort to revitalize regional transit.

“If these patients and their families are unable to make those appointments, chances are high they’re also struggling to get to and from their local grocery store for fresh, healthy food or the pharmacy for their medications,” Riney says. “All of these factors are critical to healing and recovery, as well as maintaining overall health. A robust, reliable transit system is essential to making that happen. That’s why we’re a strong YES.”

Many residents don’t have a grocery store nearby so access to healthy food is an issue. They also want to able to easily get to parks and libraries.

Regional transit would get them to within a quarter of a mile of more than 100 grocery stores as well as 410 parks and 47 libraries.

The problem is more difficult for the underserved, seniors and those with disabilities. Oftentimes they don’t want to be a burden on family and friends so they skip or put off medical treatments. With the proposed system they would be able to get to within a quarter of a mile of 22 hospitals.

The need will be greater in the future. The latest U.S. Census data shows nearly a quarter of the state’s population will be 60 and older by the year 2030 – a jump of 32 percent from 2012. In addition, studies by AARP have shown that compared to similar-age people who drive, 15 percent of those who don’t drive make fewer needed trips to the doctor. Many of them will live in our region.

Regional transit would increase paratransit services by at least 33 percent to help provide greater independence for seniors and people with disabilities.

“As health care providers, we know that healthy communities start with identifying hurdles that keep patients from accessing routine health care,” says DMC’s Mallett. DMC has eight hospitals, more than 50 outpatient facilities, 3,000 physicians, and more than 10,000 employees in our region.

Regional transit will also make it easier for health care professionals to get to and from work.

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“We all are 100 percent committed to supporting efforts that not only help our patients access necessary healthcare services, but also help our employees get to their places of work to provide essential healthcare services,” says Jean Meyer, president and CEO, St. John Providence Health System, with 125 medical centers, four hospitals and 15,000 employees across the region. “Reliable regional transit is simply integral to improving the health of our region.”

Beyond that, regional transit is critical to attracting and retaining talent and meeting each system’s workforce needs to deliver the very best health care, says J. Paul Conway, senior vice president and chief human resources officer for Beaumont Health, which runs eight hospitals and 168 health centers, and employs nearly 5,000 physicians and 35,000 workers in Southeast Michigan.

“We know reliable regional transit is critical to helping us meet our talent needs and creating livable, healthy communities,” he says. “It’s about getting people to jobs and career opportunities and getting our patients the care they need and deserve to lead healthy, productive lives. We need to vote YES and make connected transit a reality this November.”

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Strong public transit will also boost the $35 billion economic impact of the health industry in Southeast Michigan annually with more than 13,000 existing health-care related businesses and more than 485,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs throughout the region, according to data from the 2016 MHA Community Benefit Report – Economic Impact of Healthcare in Michigan and the Detroit Regional Chamber. Studies and research also show that for every $1 invested in regional transit, $4 is returned in economic value. In fact, Cleveland generated $114 for every dollar spent developing the city’s rapid bus system.

The proposed ballot initiative includes a taxpayer protection clause that guarantees against any increase, renewal or redirect of any money dedicated to connecting Southeast Michigan’s four counties, without direct approval from voters. Voting yes will connect communities with reliable regional transit and cost homeowners an average of just $96 annually.

“The bottom line is that this kind of infrastructure investment is a must to grow our economy, connect the region, and ensure healthy lives, communities and businesses,” says Meyer.

For more information about Citizens for Connecting our Communities, visit www.voteyesforregionaltransit.com, follow on Twitter @yesfortransit and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/voteyesforregionaltransit.

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