David Sichel was in Yardley when he got a call for his next ride. The passenger was at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Center City, standing outside with no coat in late-night freezing weather, Sichel said. He was getting kicked out of the hospital the next day for rowdy behavior.
Sichel stopped at six different entrances before finding the passenger. Sichel planned to drive him to a particular treatment center, but the passenger informed him he couldn’t return there. After making a few calls, Sichel located another treatment center with a free bed. The passenger arrived there and was in treatment shortly after.
“David Sichel saved my life. He picked me up when nobody else would,” the passenger wrote on Facebook a couple of months after that happened.
“He fed me, clothed me, it was heroic,” the post reads.
Sichel isn’t your typical Uber driver. For the past year he has run Sober Transport, a service that provides individuals with transportation to or from a treatment facility, hospital or other locations. Now living in Bucks County, the Bustleton native offers rides all around the Greater Philadelphia area, even driving out to locations like Pittsburgh or willing to hop on a plane to Florida.
Arriving or leaving at treatment are when patients are at their most vulnerable, Sichel said. If parents or other loved ones are the drivers there’s a chance they’ll give in to emotion and turn around, which is where Sichel comes in.
“It’s one of the most important points of their recovery,” Sichel said.
Taking an Uber or Lyft is the least helpful way for patients to be transported to the help they need, Sichel said, as it is not part of their job to be prepared for situations with individuals in the throes of addiction and in need of recovery.
Much of Sichel’s job begins before the ride. He connects clients with treatment centers or whatever service they need for patients who don’t know how to navigate the systems. He’s established a network with many local establishments to help patients embark on their best journey to recovery.
Sichel picks passengers up in a silver 2015 Hyundai Sonata stocked with Narcan and occupied by the half-schnauzer, half Shih Tzu companion Henry, who makes for good company. Each ride is an “adventure.” Sichel gets to know the passenger and offers any needed emotional support – physically driving them is the least important part of what he does.
“The most important part of what I do is making the connection with the person,” he said.
A Certified Recovery Specialist, Sichel said he is prepared for anything to go wrong on the drive. He’s had people jump from the car and attempt to run on foot, but by the end of every ride, he wants to make sure passengers are as ready as they can be for their next step.
“I give so much of my heart to somebody. I can’t believe this is what I live to do,” he said.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call Sober Transport at 215-874-9112 or visit SoberTransport.org.