WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Transportation Pilot Project between Wichita State University and Sedgwick County is changing lives for people struggling with substance abuse and mental health.

Wichita State University’s Public Policy and Management Center and the Sedgwick County Mental Health & Substance Abuse Coalition: Barriers Committee worked with the Substance Abuse Center of Kansas to make this project happen.

The Barriers Committee identified transportation as a major barrier for people seeking help.

“It gave me transportation to go to ComCare and got me on my mental health medication,” said Project Participant Amanda Johnson.

Amanda Johnson is a recovering addict, and she is one of the 15 chosen for the pilot project.

Clients are given a free bus pass they can access on their phones.

The goal is to see what life would look like if the barrier of transportation is removed.

“To get people in services and keep them in services,” said Harold Casey, Substance Abuse Center of Kansas (SACK) CEO.

What is normally about $55 a month, making major life changes for clients.

“They were able to maintain stable housing if they had jobs if they were able to maintain their sobriety,” said Dulcinea Rakestraw, WSU Public Policy and Management Center Program Evaluation manager.

Casey said this saved the community an estimated $10,000 a month during the three-month project.

“Reducing the contacts to the emergency room and reducing admissions to the hospital,” said Casey.

Casey was not sure if it would make a difference.

“This project turned out to be a massive success for the community,” said Dawn Shepler, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coalition executive director.

“I was able to get to all of my appointments and be able to go grocery shopping, I was homeless, but now I’m not,” Johnson said.

Johnson found an apartment and credits consistent accessibility to support services for helping her stay in treatment.

“All of those things are important, and almost 100% were able to meet their mental health appointments,” Casey said.

Johnson said without this program, she would still be struggling.

“It’s really a different lifestyle not being homeless, being able to have a home, being able to eat, go to the grocery store, and get to appointments,” Johnson said.

The project has been extended for a year.

It costs an estimated $900 per month for 15 clients. Researchers are looking for more funding to support their work.

You can learn more about the full project here.