ICO partnership with school-based eye clinic confirms needed service for 5,000 students

April 11, 2012

Clinic Director Sandra Block, O.D., center, gives a tour of the school-based clinic for Chicago Public Schools, Good-Lite and ICO officials.

The Illinois College of Optometry announced its partnership with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to open a school-based eye clinic has resulted in treatment for more than 5,000 CPS students in the year since it opened.

The clinic at Princeton Elementary School on the city’s South Side was established in January 2011 as part of Chicago Vision Outreach, a program that provides charitable eye health and vision care to Chicago’s underserved populations.

It is the first known model in the nation to deliver eye care services year-round to an urban school district.

The CPS estimates 25 percent of its students fail vision screenings each year, have broken or lost glasses, or fail to get the eye exam mandated by law to enter an Illinois school system.

“During the last year, we have seen a lot of children with significant vision problems. Some children were using friends’ or siblings’ glasses, and some kids had eye health issues that had never been identified or had been identified, but never treated,” said Sandra Block, O.D., ICO professor and medical clinic director. “The clinic is part of a solution to address the unmet need of vision care for children within the city of Chicago; it is helping to eliminate one barrier to improved academic performance for many students.”

The clinic is outfitted with 13 professional eye exam lanes and is open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ICO students provide much of the clinical care under the supervision of experienced optometrists, and the more complex cases are referred to the Illinois Eye Institute, ICO’s clinical facility, for further testing. 

Data gathered from the student visits this past year demonstrate the great need for the clinic.

Approximately 75 percent of the treated children needed new or replacement glasses.

Strabismus was present in 6.2 percent of the students, and amblyopia was identified in 8.5 percent.

Previously undiagnosed glaucoma was found in two cases.

Melissa Coleman, an optician at the clinic, said it has been a very rewarding experience to deliver new glasses to the students.

“They’ve been going so long without being able to see properly,” said Coleman. “Most of the time they say ‘Wow! Everything looks so big and so close to me!’”

The program is currently funded through state reimbursement and private grants from the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, Alcon and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.

A complete list of supporting organizations and individuals is available by visiting www.ico.edu

A video clip of Dick Smith, Ph.D., chief officer of the Office of Special Education and Supports with the Chicago Public Schools, commenting about the clinic and impact to the school system is available at http://tinyurl.com/6wj53fc.

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