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Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited John Charles Haines Elementary School today to meet with students receiving eye glasses following their eye examinations administered through the City of Chicago’s school-based vision program. Since its inception in 2013, the Mayor’s vision program has provided 82,464 students with eye exams. This week the program gave out its 50,000th pair of glasses to students in need of vision correction.
In 2013, Mayor Emanuel set a goal for the vision program to administer 100,000 eye exams in three years. CDPH is on track to exceed the Mayor’s goal by December 2015. They project providing an additional 22,000 exams through the end of the calendar year.
“Whether it is seeing the blackboard or the computer screen, most of a child’s learning is visual. It forms the foundation for their success in school and in life,” said Mayor Emanuel. “By giving children clearer vision in school, we are giving them a clearer vision of their own future.”
The vision program is available to every CPS elementary and high school and provides students in need with access to eye exams and glasses at no cost to the student or student’s parents. Mayor Emanuel has committed $4.8 million to the Vision Program for 2013 – 2015, prior to this Chicago Public Schools could only provide eye exams to about 8,000 students annually. The Mayor prioritized this funding following fiscal year 2012 screenings in which only 11 percent of the 30,000 kindergarteners required by state law to obtain vision exams reported having done so to their school, with parents citing challenges to find a doctor in their neighborhood as well as a lack of resources to pay for the necessary exam.
“We know having a good education is key to growing into a healthy adult,” said CDPH Commissioner Julie Morita, MD. “Being able to see your teacher and read the board is essential to getting a good education. This program provides the tools for our students to succeed today and in the future.”
Starting in 2015, eye glasses are ordered through Classical Optical using the Medicaid standards. If a student needs glasses, immediately following the exam they can make a selection from a minimum of 36 different frame styles and colors. Through a deal brokered with CDPH, Classic Optical charges the department a minimal $5 per pair of eyeglasses, and the children receive their glasses within three weeks of the exam date. The vision program works with parents to provide written and oral eye care information and education, making referrals if a specialty optometrist consultation is necessary.
CDPH is committed to increasing access to health services for students through working in partnership with the Chicago Public Schools. Prior to the Mayor’s initiative, many students were referred to an optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam, but most did not follow-through due to lack of information, limited access or limited resources. With the City of Chicago’s sponsorship behind the school based vision program, thousands of students now receive comprehensive eye exams and glasses in their schools.
Photo Credit: Brooke Collins // City of Chicago
Photo Caption: Mayor Emanuel visits with students receiving free eye glasses at Haines Elementary.