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Free eye exams for Harrisburg residents in need of assistance

The Pennsylvania Optometric Association, VSP Vision Eyes of Hope, and The Salvation Army provided eye care to the Harrisburg community Friday.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Optometric Association (POA), VSP Vision Eyes of Hope, and The Salvation Army provided eye care to the Harrisburg community Friday.

Residents who make family income up to 200% of federal poverty guidelines and have no coverage for routine vision care were able to schedule an appointment.

Over 100 patients signed up and the process took up to 15 minutes. 

Richard Christoph, Optometrist and Chair of the Legislative Affairs Committee for the POA, said the evaluation screens for any eye disease a patient may have or currently has that can impact their vision.  

"We're going to evaluate their vision, so if they need glasses or an update to their glasses to help them see better. Then, of course, looking at the health of their eyes, cataract, glaucoma, damage to the eye from diabetes, high blood pressure, and other diseases that can damage their vision," said Christoph.

He tells FOX43 there are many ways patients can either improve their eyesight if diagnosed with a disease or prevent them. Some include exercising and eating vegetables daily.  

"Number one, get your eyes examined. We want to see you every year so we can catch those diseases early, and then the things you can do on your own- don't smoke. Smoking increases your risk for eye diseases." said Christoph. 

Due to many facing economic crises, the Mobile Eye Care Clinic event provided an exam, prescription, and glasses all in one day for free. Dawneisha Ray, a mother who brought her child in to get glasses, said the community needs more events like this. 

"It was very helpful because not everybody can afford glasses or eye exams or have insurance to even get eye exams or glasses," said Ray. 

Lori Fanning, VSP Mobile Clinic Operations Manager, said that during the economic crisis, many people are unable to afford the services that are beneficial to live a healthy life. 

"People are going to not pay for a pair of glasses and actually pay for milk, groceries, and other stuff because glasses are expensive," said Fanning.

Patricia Stringer, who also was screened and prescribed Friday, said the possibility of missing a yearly eye exam could negatively impact your health. Although the pandemic created struggles, Stringer said it's important to put your health first. 

"People should really take advantage of these things because if you lose your health then your life is gone," said Stringer. 

Christoph said The Pennsylvania Optometric Association is working with partners to pass legislation that would provide free eye exams before the start of school every year. 

"We're hoping to pass some legislation that will make sure that kids could get their eyes examined before they start school," Christoph said. He added "Screenings are great and the school nurses are great at what they do, but it's not a complete examination and they don't catch everything," said Christoph. 

Another Mobile Eye Care Clinic will take place on Saturday, Sept. 17 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at The Salvation Army Harrisburg Capital City Region. 

Organizers say they're fully booked, but will accept walk-ins. 

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