Fuel for change: couple launches business to make transportation more accessible
Brisa Berumen-Dixon’s experience in a clinical healthcare setting left her frustrated when patients would miss their appointments because of a lack of transportation; they were further along in their care journeys and required more advanced treatments.
“I often made referrals and appointments that weren’t completed because of transportation issues—especially with specialized transport that required wheelchair transport,” Dixon said.
Transportation can be so difficult to get, in fact, that it’s keeping approximately 5.8 million people from getting medical care every year and is a prime example of a social determinant of health. In addition, 3.6 million Americans with travel-limiting disabilities don’t leave their homes because they are disabled or homebound, which increases health inequities for underserved populations.
But one patient’s life-changing situation encouraged Dixon to take a stand. Her seemingly simple act would help remove a barrier to healthcare—the inability to be transported due to physical limitations—for this individual and many others.
Seabreeze Transportation makes its debut
Dixon had a client who suffered a stroke that paralyzed the individual and prevented him from being able to be transported. This caused missed appointments and a decline in health.
“This occurred several times a week. I was frustrated,” Dixon said.
This exasperation sparked her and her husband, Delvin, to start their own non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) business In Rockford, Illinois. They named their business Seabreeze, the meaning of Brisa’s name in Spanish.
Compassion drives business
Three years in business, Seabreeze has seven vehicles, five of which are wheelchair-accessible and can accommodate up to 1,000 pounds. The company averages 520 trips a week.
Why is Seabreeze so successful? Two drivers: empathy and compassion.
Understanding what members go through each day--from the moment they step inside the vehicle to walking into the clinician’s office—keeps Seabreeze thriving. The team is committed to forming personal connections with their members and meeting them right where they are.
“During a meeting, one of my drivers was explaining how a member was always angry and rude during rides,” Dixon said. “I knew the member he was referring to because I often ride along with members to their appointments. This member was a single mother with terminal cancer. What I helped my staff understand is she wasn’t angry with them but rather the situation she was in.”
Community provides support
Dixon says she’s especially grateful for the community’s support of Seabreeze.
“Knowing how we are impacting the community brings joy to my heart,” Dixon said. “It’s also a blessing to help families. I have 20 employees and 16 of them are single mothers or fathers who depend on their paychecks to provide for their families.”
Removing the barrier to encourage better health
The start of Seabreeze wasn’t just any normal business opening. Rather, it was a business launch that provided transportation for those with physical limitations—a barrier that kept so many home for too long without appropriate care. Today, Seabreeze is changing the trajectory of rides to accommodate those who need it most, and Brisa and Delvin are doing their part to improve health equity in and around Rockford.
Hear first-hand from Brisa and how Sea Breeze is making a difference: Sea Breeze Brand Video - YouTube.