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Blind man struggles with medical transportation, social worker calls it, ‘disaster waiting to happen’

Tyrone Pouncil is 61 years old and suffers from a rare genetic disorder that caused blindness...
Tyrone Pouncil is 61 years old and suffers from a rare genetic disorder that caused blindness as a child.(Pouncil family)
Published: Jun. 9, 2022 at 2:30 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Tyrone Pouncil is 61 years old. He suffers from a rare genetic disorder that caused blindness as a child. He uses a wheelchair. Tyrone now needs dialysis three times a week for his liver.

He doesn’t qualify for medical rides. It’s something that baffles the social worker trying to help him.

“Honestly, I thought it was a mistake. I thought no, this can’t be right. There’s a glitch here. This can’t be right, because it doesn’t make any sense,” said social worker, Julie Waite.

Tyrone is ineligible for rides because he receives a small pension for the blind through Missouri. It’s $750 a month.

“To get a blind pension, they take your driver’s license away. And then they say, ‘Oh, and by the way, now you can’t use Medicaid transportation.’ When I heard that, I was like, ‘This doesn’t make any sense.’ This is the population who needs the rides the most!” said Waite.

Waite contacted KCTV5 in complete frustration. She points out dialysis is a medical need — it’s not a spa day. Uber and Lyft aren’t realistic options for a medical ride for a person with Tyrone’s needs.

Julie Waite is Tyrone Pouncil's social worker,
Julie Waite is Tyrone Pouncil's social worker,(Pouncil family)

The cheapest medical rides are $110 a day. That adds up to more than one thousand dollars per month- obviously exceeding the pension.

Tyrone and his family worry about giving up his pension to qualify for rides pointing to inflation.

Disaster waiting to happen

The current stop-gap solution is Tyrone’s 82-year-old mother, Chris. She’s had one back surgery and needs another.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday she provides complicated medical rides. The day we met the family, we watched Chris unload a wheelchair where a footrest fell off. She fixed that. Then she attached a holster which will attach to a gurney inside the clinic. The next step was removing a walker from the car.

Tyrone wore a sturdy gait belt around his waist so his mom could guide him out of the car to the walker and then to the wheelchair. It was an exhausting process that his mother described as a full day’s work. She’ll need to reverse the process when Tyrone’s dialysis is complete. Treatments can fatigue patients.

“I think I think it’s terrible. I think they have no heart. They have no feeling and I pray to God that they never have to go through anything like this,” said Chris Pouncil.

Chris says she knows the current situation isn’t sustainable and she’s worried about navigating icy roads come winter.

What’s the solution?

KCTV5 reached out to the Department of Social Services which verified Tyrone does not qualify for rides due to his blind pension.

“… is not eligible for transportation.  This is stated in our State Plan and policy manuals.  Blind Pension is a state-funded program and NEMT is only available for Medicaid recipients under a federal aid category.”

We were told “legislative action” would be needed to change things.

It’s something Julie Waite says needs to happen.

“I want lawmakers to look at this provision and either admit that they made a mistake and take that code out of there or figure out another way that blind pension recipients can be can have reliable transportation to and from not only dialysis treatments, but medical treatments in general,” said Julie Waite.

How does it work in other states?

The Kansas Council for the Blind says medical rides are easier to come by in Kansas, but many people choose to live in Missouri rather than Kansas because there is a blind pension.

Missouri’s pension allows for blind people to have additional income to help with durable medical equipment and other expenses.

In Tyrone’s case, the pension is much less than the cost of proper medical rides.

For more KCTV5 Investigates stories, click here.