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Optometric physicians offer free eye care

eye care During January, uninsured low income workers and their families who cannot afford eye care can benefit from an eye exam program now in its sixth consecutive year in Washington.
   The program, called VISION USA, is part of a nationwide charity effort undertaken by the American Optometric Association (AOA).
   The project is supported in part by a grant from Bistakon, a division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Products, and Vision Service Plan of Arizona, according to Dr. Roger Hall, VISION USA coordinator for the Washington Association of Optometric Physicians.
   Those wishing to apply for the program may do so by calling 1-800-766-4466 from January 2-31, 1996, to be screened for eligibility.
   Individuals may also write for an application: VISION USA, 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., St Louis, MO 63141. Applications must be returned by January 25, 1996.
   Those who meet the requirements will be assigned to a volunteer optometric physician in their community. They will be notified by mail which doctor's office to call for their appointment. Comprehensive eye exams will be provided in March during National Save Your Vision Week.
   "The doctors are donating their time and are not being reimbursed for their professional services. They care about the public's eye health, and it is their way of giving something back to the people in their communities," Dr. Hall said.
   Nearly 8,000 doctors of optometry who are AOA members have participated in VISION USA during each of the first five years. Nationwide, approximately 175,000 children and adults have received free eye care. Nearly nine out of 10 have had one or more eye health or vision problems.
   In Washington State last year, 170 optometric physicians examined 1,075 individuals. Eyeglasses will be provided if needed. There is a $10 administrative fee, with the balance of the cost of the eyeglasses being paid for by a grant from the Lion's Sight Conservation Foundation.
   Local laboratories in Washington have agreed to supply the lenses at a fraction of the usual cost.
   "Many people put off seeing an optometric physician because of economic reasons. If vision problems are left untreated, eyesight could be permanently lost," according to Dr. Hall.
   "The results of the VISION USA program are both startling and impressive. It shows what a great need there is for a program such as VISION USA that provides eye exams as a professional coutesy to low income working Americans who have no health insurance and who do not earn enough to be able to pay for eye care themselves," said Dr. Hall.