For more than 10 years, Oregon Health & Science University’s Casey Eye Institute Community Outreach Program has provided more than 10,000 free vision screenings to adults across Oregon. This work has helped to identify common preventable and treatable eye conditions that often cause blindness.
Thanks to two generous gifts, totaling $3.25 million, the program will be able to reach more Oregonians than ever before. This support, provided jointly by philanthropist Heather Killough and the Sisters, Oregon-based Roundhouse Foundation, will allow the program to not only increase patient access to vision screenings, but will also expand community health worker training and certification, and offer more sophisticated diagnostic testing and treatments through a second mobile eye clinic that can travel to communities statewide.
“It is inspiring to see community members and organizations – like Ms. Killough and the Roundhouse Foundation – come together to support the health and well-being of all Oregonians,” says David Wilson, M.D., Paul H. Casey chair and professor of ophthalmology in the OHSU School of Medicine, and director of the OHSU Casey Eye Institute. “We are pleased to be able to build on the momentum of the past 10 years, help to further bridge the gaps of vision care to limit preventable blindness, and ensure that everyone across the state is able to easily access the highest quality diagnostics and treatment available.”
Why access to community-based eye care is important
Since 2010, the Casey Eye Institute’s first 33-foot mobile eye clinic has served as the only adult vision screening program in Oregon to offer full, dilated eye exams under the supervision of an ophthalmologist able to diagnose serious eye conditions. Approximately 60% of the mobile clinic’s clients have received a prescription, and about 20% have been referred to local providers for follow-up care after an ophthalmologist found something concerning.
“The success of the Casey Community Outreach Program has literally changed lives,” says Heather Killough, a long-time program donor and a member of the Casey family for which the Casey Eye Institute is named. “Many of the program’s clients live in rural areas far from necessary health care services, others are underinsured. Had it not been for the program, these individuals simply may not have been able to access care and experience increased quality of life. I am proud to help support this continued effort and help bring more care, to more Oregonians more quickly.”
In addition to screenings, the Casey Community Outreach Program also works to train a network of community volunteers, and certify community health workers to provide ongoing preventative education, diagnostic exams and follow-up vision care in their own communities.
“Having volunteered for Casey’s Outreach Program at the Paiute Tribal Center in Burns, I have experienced, first hand, the difference it makes to people to have sight-threatening conditions identified before they can cause blindness and to update their eye glass prescriptions for the first time in many years,” said Kathy Deggendorfer, trustee of The Roundhouse Foundation. “We are excited to help expand this network of health care partners and community health workers across the state to allow program clients to receive necessary services, from qualified providers who understand each community’s unique barriers to health care, long after the mobile eye clinic pulls out of town.”
The program’s new mobile eye clinic should be ready to hit the road and provide free eye screenings and community education opportunities statewide in spring 2022.