Dr. Hezikiah Johnson of Sears Optical conducts an eye exam during a vision clinic Tuesday at Sherwood Acres Elementary School. The clinic was facilitated by the Samaritan Clinic in Albany to target uninsured children.
ALBANY — Samaritan Clinic, a non-profit community health care provider, continued its partnership with the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation Kids Program with a focus on serving children in the Dougherty County School System by facilitating a vision clinic at Sherwood Acres Elementary School this week.
Students who had no insurance of any kind were eligible for the free vision program. All eye exams were performed in the school beginning at 7:30 a.m., at which time eligible children had a fully dilated eye examination and the chance to choose their own eyeglass frames if they needed them.
There were up to 30 permission slips that came back from parents expressing interest in the clinic, but a majority of the children were not seen because it was targeted specifically to those who were uninsured, officials say.
There were roughly 10 children seen at the clinic, with the exams being conducted in one room by Dr. Hezikiah Johnson of Sears Optical with frame fittings being done in another room across the hall.
The clinic at Sherwood Acres was the first one to be conducted in a Dougherty school, said Nedra Fortson, executive director of the Samaritan Clinic in Albany. Officials hope others will follow.
“We hope we can make this a countywide initiative,” Fortson said.
Since May, the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation Kids Program has provided 200 children with eye exams and/or eyeglasses across the state, officials say. Traditionally, children with vision needs in Albany were served through the Samaritan Clinic office located on North Jefferson Street. However, on the heels of Lighthouse’s 2011 success of providing access to vision services to elementary, middle and high school students in one community, the school-based, youth vision program came to life.
“Georgia Lions Lighthouse started a kids program that proved to be successful. They decided to bring it down to Albany,” said Fortson. “As a result of that, a few kids will have an eye exam (in the area’s schools).
“The need is definitely here.”
Not only does it have the benefit of providing care the children might not get otherwise, it helps it close the achievement gap from the standpoint that students who see better are better able to do well in school, coordinators say.
“They wouldn’t be able to get glasses otherwise,” said Lois Reed, a volunteer with the Samaritan Clinic. “This is why we provide glasses for children.
“We don’t always realize how many children are uninsured.”
The Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing access to vision and hearing services to those in financial need. Last year alone, the Lighthouse Foundation served 6,000 uninsured and underinsured Georgians, officials say, and is able to maintain a statewide reach by setting up mobile equipment in 23 clinic locations across the state on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.
The Samaritan Clinic has been the Lighthouse’s vision partner in Albany since 2008. Through this partnership, 212 Dougherty County residents have received 15 eye surgeries, 113 eye exams and 147 pairs of eyeglasses. Due to the in-kind services of its medical providers and volunteers, these services total $108,533, officials with the clinic say.
Officials also say that the Samaritan Clinic further provides medical, breast and cervical cancer screenings, diabetes monitoring and education, medication assistance and emergency dental services for patients who qualify.