An eye clinic in a Winnebago?
It might sound unusual, but the innovative approach brings needed services to people living in the Great Lakes Bay region who might not otherwise access vision care.
Jodi Scorsone is the director of the Saginaw Area Foundation for Eye Care (SAFE). She said the foundation’s mobile eye care van travels directly to patients who need it the most. The unique mobile unit makes stops at the East Side Soup Kitchen, the Salvation Army, the Bay Area Women’s Center, Midland Open Door, and many more places where residents are in need.
“As far as eye care goes, this is the only (mobile unit) in the area that I have ever heard of,” she said.
The van is equipped with a fully functioning ophthalmologist’s office inside, complete with waiting area and a space for patients to get fitted for glasses. Volunteer eye care professionals provide exams at no cost. About 90 percent of patients who access the mobile unit need glasses, which equates to almost 600 people every year. Prescription lenses and frames are provided free of charge.
“Most of the people we see say they wouldn’t go to an eye doctor if we weren’t coming to them,” Scorsone said.
If vision needs go beyond corrective lenses, the foundation works with local eye doctors who can provide cataract surgery, help correct complications from diabetes and perform other procedures.
“If it needs to go further than eyeglasses, we can help them with that too,” Scorsone said.
Feedback from patients is the most rewarding part of the work. People have shared stories of being able to work again thanks to their new glasses and that they’re better able to care for their families, Scorsone said.
“They appreciate it so much and it is so impactful on their lives,” she said.
To learn more about the foundation and mobile eye care van programming, visit their website.
Editor’s note: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan recently awarded SAFE a $10,000 grant and has awarded the clinic a total of $100,000 since 2010. Previously, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation provided a one-time $35,000 grant to SAFE that helped fund 13 surgical procedures to prevent blindness.
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Photos courtesy of the Saginaw Area Foundation for Eye Care.