Columbia, SC – A vision for expanded eyecare and innovative partnerships in South Carolina is coming into focus thanks to a 3-year grant from the BlueCross® BlueShield® of South Carolina Foundation (“the Foundation”) for the Vision for South Carolina Program. This program is a joint venture by Lions Vision Services (LVS), the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired SC (ABVI), Servants for Sight (SFS), and the South Carolina Free Clinic Association (SCFCA). Together these nonprofits are increasing South Carolina’s capacity for vision health and combating the rise of vision loss, which is expected to double by 2030 without effective and immediate intervention.
“The Foundation has been impressed with how these nonprofit organizations have come together to complement one another and expand vision support services in our state,” said Erika Kirby, Executive Director of the Foundation. “From the beginning, the Vision for South Carolina Program has come forward with a plan to ensure partners in this space are working towards shared goals and reducing duplication to maximize the benefit each organization can provide.”
Vision health encompasses 4 priorities addressed by the Vision for South Carolina program: vision loss prevention through regular vision screenings and eye exams, eye health education, sight saving surgeries, and vision rehabilitation services. Each of the participating nonprofits brings vital expertise and impactful programs together to address one or more of these vision health priorities.
Servants for Sight provides free vision screenings on its Mobile Vision Van throughout the Upstate, working to provide early detection and preventative care for vision loss. Lions Vision Services offers free sight saving eye surgeries throughout the state to permanently correct vision disabilities. The Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired SC equips those with irreversible vision loss with free skills training and support services to adjust to life with a visual disability and develop the adaptive skills necessary to live safely and independently with vision loss.
The South Carolina Free Clinic Association integrates eyecare into public health apparatuses by connecting Free Clinic patients with the comprehensive eyecare services they need at one of the Vision for South Carolina program’s partner entities, utilizing a Patient Care Fund to decrease financial barriers to accessing vision healthcare services.
The first Interim Report of the grant program recently concluded over the summer with promising results from the initial implementation of this collaborative healthcare program. To date, over 990 South Carolinians have received more than 250 hours of eyecare services. Partner organizations have nimbly adapted to an array of logistical challenges associated with providing healthcare and roughly 50% of the first year’s funds have been expensed to date. A variety of local eyecare professionals across the state including optometrists, ophthalmologists, low vision doctors, a low vision occupational therapist and a certified orientation and mobility specialist have been engaged to assist in providing these eye health services.
Results and testimonials from the first report period underscore the growing need and urgency for vision health care. Vision screenings, especially for youth, are experiencing significant demands for increased scale – and more pediatric screening events are being scheduled to care for adolescence. A 48-year-old widow in rural Sumter County was caught in a family crisis compounded by unexpected cataracts but received sight-saving surgery at no cost to regain employment and stability. A Lowcountry resident lost his vision due to diabetic retinopathy but regained his confidence to navigate public spaces, schedule his own rides, and better manage his diabetes and cholesterol through skills training. And Free Clinics across the state are connecting an increasing number of their patients with specialized eyecare services.
“Vision for all South Carolinians cannot be achieved without partnership. For LVS Community is one of our Core Values underscoring our prioritization of resilient, inclusive, collaborative, and fun communities that are sought after and trusted by others. Vision for South Carolina is the perfect illustration of this community,” said Daniel Prohaska, President & CEO of Lions Vision Services. “We are honored to partner with these industry leaders and allies in the eyecare field to end blindness in poverty throughout the state, and we cannot thank the Foundation enough for seeing the potential in this collaboration and supporting this program so generously.”
The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
Lions Vision Services (LVS) was created by the Lions Clubs of South Carolina in 1969 and exists today to empower the under-served blind and visually impaired in South Carolina to live safe, meaningful, and fulfilling lives. LVS offers a range of programs and services to low-income South Carolina residents who apply for need-based financial assistance with obtaining eye exams, eyeglasses, affordable eye surgeries, and vision technology. Free vision screenings are provided to promote early detection and correction of vision impairments. Each spring the organization hosts a Blind Fishing event and manages quarterly meetings of the Palmetto Vision Alliance. To learn more about LVS’s services, visit www.lionsvisionservices.org.