A Sanford-based nonprofit agency that will stop providing rides for MaineCare patients next week has laid off more than 20 employees.

York County Community Action Corp. announced in December that it would stop working with the state contractor that arranges rides in York County effective Feb. 7 because it was losing revenue while working with the contractor.

The agency laid off 17 employees this week. Another six were laid off in the past month.

York County Community Action has provided about half of the drivers used by Atlanta-based LogistiCare, which has a $5.1 million, one-year state contract to arrange MaineCare recipients’ rides to medical appointments in the York County region.

Robert Harrison, a vice president for LogistiCare, said the company took steps to prepare for the agency’s pullout, including buying vehicles and expanding its network of volunteer drivers. Harrison said he doesn’t anticipate a disruption in service for MaineCare patients.

LogistiCare is one of three rides brokers that cover the state. The program has been beset with problems since it started Aug. 1, including thousands of missed rides for low-income Mainers who need transportation to doctors’ offices, cancer treatment, dialysis and other appointments. About 45,000 Mainers use the $40 million-a-year program.

Before the new system started, York County Community Action was part of a network of local groups that worked directly with the state to provide rides for MaineCare patients. State officials are now considering changes to the program that might once again allow local nonprofits to contract directly with the state.

Barbara Crider, executive director of York County Community Action, said the 17 laid-off employees – 15 drivers and two office staffers – were notified Monday.

She said the agency had received about $3.8 million a year in the past three years for MaineCare rides, but that was projected to fall to $2.1 million in the first year under its arrangement with LogistiCare.

“We were on an unsustainable path. Every week that went by, we went deeper and deeper in the red,” Crider said. “It’s really devastating to say goodbye to 23 long-term staff members. We’re also very concerned about the ability of MaineCare members to get reliable and responsive transportation to their appointments.”

Connie Garber, transportation supervisor for York County Community Action, said the agency laid off about half of its drivers. The agency, which employs about 200 people, will continue to provide other ride services that are funded separately, including services in the Sanford area to bring people to stores and jobs. It has been providing about 10,000 rides a month.

Harrison, the LogistiCare vice president in charge of Maine operations, said York County Community Action approached the company last year with two requests, one for a rate increase and the other for a “system redesign” to give the agency most of the responsibility for arranging rides.

He said the agency was given a 12 percent rate increase, but the other requested changes couldn’t be made because of LogistiCare’s contractual obligations to the state.

Because York County Community Action gave LogistiCare the proper amount of notice to sever their relationship, LogistiCare was able to make arrangements to handle the rides the agency will no longer provide, Harrison said.

Myra Orifice, the general manager for LogistiCare’s office in Kennebunk, said the company has a fleet of 15 vehicles and works with other transportation providers that will now provide more rides.

North East Mobile Health Services of Scarborough added 10 vehicles to its fleet, and Mermaid Transportation of Portland added seven vehicles, she said, so those companies will be able to pick up the majority of MaineCare rides in York County.

Two taxi companies, A1 Taxi and Springvale Taxi, have added non-emergency, non-taxi vehicles so they can provide MaineCare rides.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@pressherald.com

Twitter: @grahamgillian