By Scott Farrell, OD
August 4, 2021
Children with parents who have no vision insurance shouldn’t suffer the consequences of their parents’ situation. For the last 13 years I have been helping these families receive eye health, vision screenings and glasses where needed. A few years ago, when the cost of doing this work was becoming prohibitive, I found Changing Life through Lenses (CLTL)®, a program from Essilor Vision Foundation (EVF). I now am able to reach many more children, as well as their struggling parents, to provide transformative eye exams and vision correction.
A Career Focused on Giving Back
After decades in private practice, and as an optometrist affiliated with the Kaiser Permanente health network in Southern California, I transitioned to spending all of my professional time delivering not-for-profit care.
I work two days a week at a nonprofit eyecare clinic, where I am a paid staff optometrist, and then spend the rest of my time donating care at 10 clinics. Four of these clinics are in Utah, where I am based, and six are international, in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. I’m able to use CLTL for one-time international mission support when I serve in other countries, plus the program supports all of my philanthropic efforts with frames, lenses and lab services for the free clinics located in the U.S.
Two days per week, from September through May, I take a mobile trailer to visit schools in Utah to provide care to children who have failed vision tests administered by their school nurse. The trailer is equipped with everything required to provide a comprehensive eye exam and refraction, along with a small optical, where the children can select frames. Opticians volunteer their time to travel with me in the trailer to pretest the children and help with frame selection. After the children’s eyes have been examined and refracted, and frames have been selected, we send the glasses order through CLTL to be completed and sent back, free of charge. Neither the patient, nor the optometrist, pays for the frame, lenses or lab services. Before working with CLTL, it cost me $25 per child to provide the same service. Now the only cost to me is my time.
I examine and refract 25-30 children every time I visit a school. That results in at least 50 children per week throughout the school year getting free glasses from CLTL. The need is so great that we return to some of the schools a few times a year.
During the summer months, I use the mobile clinic to provide free care and glasses from CLTL to adults in locations like shelters, prisons and halfway houses.
Care that Turns Lives Around
Some of the children I examine and refract are at +/-4 diopters, or greater, and have never had a pair of glasses. They are not able to see the blackboard, and are behind both academically and socially. Some can’t even see well enough to play sports because they can’t see a ball flying through the air, or walk safely to and from school.
Those who don’t receive eye care and needed visual correction as children suffer deficits for the rest of their lives. By the time they reach adolescence they are far behind most of their peers, and often never catch up. Some of those deficits can be seen in the adults I provide care to. In one case, an adult from a halfway home, whom I examined and refracted, could not apply for jobs because he simply did not have adequate vision to fill out an employment application.
In other cases, people in need may have had glasses at one time, but experienced hardship in which those glasses were lost or destroyed. For example, a woman I examined and refracted was supplied with glasses by CLTL after her violent husband broke all of her old glasses. She was able to leave the shelter, work, function and take care of her family once more.
An Easy Way to Get Started Giving Back
With CLTL covering the cost of the frames, lenses and lab services, doctors need only donate their time and expertise.
To make participation even easier, EVF is committing up to $250,000 in the CLTL program to provide support for practices that participate in the CLTL program and enroll in the CLTL Relief Fund.
CLTL participants who provide vision services to charitable patients between June 1 and December 31, 2021, can receive a subsidy of up to $1,500. To receive payment, ODs first must be enrolled in the CLTL program. The subsidy is intended to help with the costs for vision services including identifying, qualifying and examining eligible patients that results in ordering glasses from the Changing Life through Lenses website. Click HERE to register to be a part of CLTL.
A Source of Great Professional Fulfillment
Once you spend even a day giving back to your community, or an international community, by providing care, refraction and much-needed visual correction, it gets in your blood, and you want to be involved again. I tell people that donating my time to people in need, and supplying eyewear through CLTL, is the same as a vacation to Hawaii in the joy it brings me. The optometrists and opticians, who work with me to serve patients in need, tell me the same thing. They can’t wait to do it again.
Read Another Success Story
The children we supply care and glasses to usually don’t say thank you, but when we see their faces as they look around for the first time with corrected vision, we get more than a thank you. We get the fulfillment of having changed someone’s life. The barriers of poor vision have been removed, enabling the child to lead a fuller, more productive, happier life.
Scott Farrell, OD, is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he is on staff at a nonprofit eye care clinic that is associated with a larger charity-based healthcare network. In addition, he operates 10 nonprofit eye care clinics spread between Utah and international locations including Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. To contact him: email@example.com