The Cincinnati Eye Institute Foundation Treats 1,000th Patient at St. Vincent de Paul Vision Clinic
Retired Ophthamologists Volunteer to Operate Free Vision Clinics for Cincinnati’s Underserved
From left is Dr. David Brounley, volunteer with The CEI Foundation, and 1,000th patient Brian Hills at The CEI Foundation’s Eye Clinic at St. Vincent de Paul-Cincinnati in Over-The-Rhine. The foundation supports free vision clinics throughout greater Cincinnati as its largest community initiative. (Oak Tree Communications)
Some of Cincinnati’s poorest have never seen a doctor of any kind, much less an eye doctor. And those suffering from chronic illnesses like diabetes may not realize their eyesight can often be damaged by the disease.
The Cincinnati Eye Institute Foundation wants to preserve the gift of sight for everyone, regardless of ability to pay. Patients seeking care at its free vision clinics live below 200 percent of the poverty line, which means a family of four earns $44,000 or less per year.
This week a milestone was reached at The CEI Foundation’s Free Vision Clinic for underserved adults at St. Vincent de Paul – Cincinnati’s Eye Clinic in the West End. The clinic at 1125 Bank Street saw its 1,000th patient.
“I feel very blessed, very grateful to have this service,” said Brian Hills, 47, of Over-The-Rhine. Hills said he is nearsighted and lost his glasses a few months ago. He was referred to The CEI Foundation clinic by Volunteers of America and walked in to receive service.
The clinic at St. Vincent de Paul opened in June of 2015 as a single-doctor service open one day per month. It quickly became apparent that patient demand for vision care required clinic expansion. By September, clinic hours were expanded to every Thursday morning, with afternoon hours available on the third Thursday of the month.
“The demand for eye care in our community has been astonishing,” said Patrick Ward, president and CEO of The CEI Foundation. “We’ve been astounded by the community’s need for comprehensive eye exams, as well as the diagnosis of potential eye disease in our patients.”
The CEI Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Cincinnati Eye Institute, is committed to supporting programs designed to promote and maintain a lifetime of good vision. Vision clinic patients receive comprehensive dilated-eye exams, where the doctor examines the entire eye to check the retina, macula, and eye pressure for indications of glaucoma and cataracts, said Amy Jones, director of community outreach and development for The CEI Foundation.
The CEI Foundation’s free vision clinics see an average of 2,000 patients a year. About 70 to 75 percent of clinic patients need and receive glasses from clinic partner OneSight Foundation, and 10 percent are referred to UC’s Ophthalmology Clinic for additional follow up or surgery, said Ward.
“We are so grateful to have The CEI Foundation vision clinics here,” said Larry Shields, director of community relations at The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Cincinnati. “We’ve had people come to the pharmacy who think their eyesight is changing due to their age when it could be something more serious. It’s wonderful to be able to have a pharmacist refer them to the eye clinic. In the future, as our partnership with The CEI Foundation continues, our goal is to see people on a more regular basis.”
The St. Vincent de Paul’s Liz Carter Outreach Center on Bank Street offers its clients eye care through The CEI Foundation clinic, a food pantry, a pharmacy, and health and dental screenings. All services are free.
“We’ve adapted our services to community needs and provide services where we can care for each patient’s overall health and spiritual wellbeing,” said Shields. “But transportation is always a concern. It gives you pause. Can you imagine, having to ask yourself, ‘Is this the day I can go to the pharmacy? Or the grocery store?’ Most of us don’t have to worry about that.”
Demand for free vision care for Cincinnati’s neediest neighborhoods is also growing at The CEI Foundation’s Clovernook vision clinic. The Clovernook vision clinic serves patients in College Hill, North College Hill and Mt. Healthy. Eye exam services at Clovernook will expand to two doctors in April, said Ward. The CEI Foundation also operates a vision clinic at the Good Samaritan Hospital Free Health Center, serving patients in Upper and Lower Price Hill and Westwood.
A fourth vision clinic location is being evaluated for Middletown, Ohio, as a result of the closing of Roselawn Lutheran Church, which housed the clinic. Roselawn patients continue to be served at the Clovernook clinic.
Retired ophthalmologist Dr. David Brounley of the West End volunteers at the St. Vincent de Paul eye clinic. He examined Hills and prescribed a new pair of glasses for him.
“I’m glad to be seeing patients again,” said Brounley. “I realized after I retired that I missed patient contact. So I volunteer to maintain my skills; it’s also a nice feeling to help patients.”
The CEI Foundation will host its annual golf outing fundraiser on Friday, June 16 at the Blue Ash Golf Course. Fifth Third Bank will be the presenting sponsor. For more information about the golf outing or The Cincinnati Eye Institute Foundation, call (513) 569-3725 or visit www.ceifoundation.org.