Some of Cincinnati’s poorest have never seen a doctor of any kind, much less an eye doctor. And those with chronic illnesses like diabetes may not realize their eyesight can be damaged by the disease.
The Cincinnati Eye Institute Foundation wants to preserve sight for everyone, regardless of ability to pay.
The foundation’s Free Vision Clinic for underserved adults at St. Vincent de Paul’s Liz Carter Outreach Center recently hit a milestone when it served its 1,000th patient.
“I feel very blessed, very grateful to have this service,” said Brian Hills, 47, of Over-The-Rhine. Hills said he is nearsighted and lost his glasses a few months ago. He was referred to the clinic by Volunteers of America.
Patients seeking care at the free clinics live below 200 percent of the poverty line, which means a family of four earns $44,000 or less per year.
The clinic at St. Vincent de Paul opened in 2015 one day per month. It quickly became apparent that patient demand for vision care required growth. Soon clinic hours were expanded to every Thursday morning, with afternoon hours available on the third Thursday of the month.
“We’ve been astounded by the community’s need for comprehensive eye exams, as well as the diagnosis of potential eye disease in our patients,” said Patrick Ward, the foundation’s president and CEO.
The CEI Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Cincinnati Eye Institute, supports programs designed to promote and maintain a lifetime of good vision. Clinic patients receive comprehensive dilated-eye exams, which check the retina, macula and eye pressure for indications of glaucoma and cataracts, said Amy Jones, director of community outreach and development for the foundation.
The free clinics see an average of 2,000 patients a year. About 70 to 75 percent need and receive glasses from clinic partner OneSight Foundation, and 10 percent are referred to UC’s Ophthalmology Clinic for follow-up, said Ward.
“We are so grateful to have the CEI Foundation vision clinics here,” said Larry Shields, director of community relations at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Cincinnati. “We’ve had people come to the pharmacy who think their eyesight is changing due to their age when it could be something more serious. It’s wonderful to be able to have a pharmacist refer them to the eye clinic. ”
St. Vincent de Paul’s Liz Carter Outreach Center on Bank Street offers its clients eye care through the clinic, as well as a food pantry, a pharmacy, and health and dental screenings. All services are free.
Demand for free vision care is also growing at CEI Foundation’s Clovernook clinic, which serves patients in College Hill, North College Hill and Mount Healthy. The foundation also operates a vision clinic at the Good Samaritan Hospital Free Health Center, serving patients in Upper and Lower Price Hill and Westwood.
A fourth location is being evaluated for Middletown.
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The CEI Foundation will host its annual golf outing fundraiser on Friday, June 16, at Blue Ash Golf Course. Fifth Third Bank will be the presenting sponsor.
Information: (513) 569-3725 or ceifoundation.org