(Samantha Stone/The Reasonable Reporter) – Until now, it seemed silly, but not tragic. Thousands of pairs of used eyeglasses collected in Nevada for charitable purposes end up perched on the noses of needy recipients in other countries. None of the donated specs are distributed in Nevada.
Now the state is facing Health and Human Services budget cuts that could eliminate prescription glasses to seniors, and this is no longer a merely unfortunate situation. It’s enough to make you cry.
“There is a central collection warehouse right here in Reno,” Dr. Troy Humphreys told the Reasonable Reporter. Humphreys is an optometrist, and a member of the Lions Club, a service organization long devoted to the needs of the visually impaired. The Lions’ ranks include guide dog trainers and many optometrists who volunteer examination services. But the docs don’t dispense the used glasses.
“All glasses are organized and sent to Vallejo, to be catalogued for Lions in Sight mission trips,” he wrote in an email, referring to good works abroad by the Lions International organization.
Here at home, used glasses could be matched so that prescriptions are close, but probably not precisely corrective to the eyesight of the pro bono patients. But, Troy said, a car accident or a tumble down the stairs could expose the volunteer optometrist to a lawsuit. So the patients don’t receive the glasses because of the potential legal liability.
It’s all the more unfortunate, Troy said, because from a dollars-and-cents standpoint, helping seniors see clearly averts accidents, and saves healthcare money on the other end. Troy cites a CDC study documenting medical expenses attributable to seniors with fractured bones or worse, because they didn’t see obstacles or couldn’t gauge proximity to dangerous objects.
In the Gazette Journal’s Sunday piece on the state budget, Senator Sheila Leslie said the budget cut will affect 7,500 people whose eyeglasses are currently picked up by the state.
“We can pay for the examinations, but not for the eyeglasses,” Leslie told the RGJ. Leslie sits on the joint Senate and Assembly committee that’s been reviewing the Health and Human Services budget.
If the state is going to cut off money for eyeglasses, this is a great opportunity to discuss tort reform, said Humphreys. The Lions would love to see the glasses going to Nevadans, but doctors have to take measures all day long to protect themselves legally, and this is just one example, he said.