Governor speaks about eye care

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 8, 2006

The Demopolis Times

Gov. Bob Riley made a trek into the heart of the Black Belt on Monday afternoon to bring the message of improved eye care.

Two years ago, Riley created the Black Belt Action Commission to help improve the state of the people within the Black Belt Area.

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“When we kicked this off a couple of years ago, we started talking about having a committee not to study the problem,” said Riley. “We called it an action commission because we wanted it to be able to do things and get things accomplished.”

One of the things that the BBAC has gotten accomplished is improved eye care within the Black Belt area.

According to a press release issued by Riley’s office, more than 12,000 children have received free vision screening and with the help of Sight Savers of Alabama, all of those who failed their screenings were provided follow up screenings.

“We brought volunteers together, coordinated their efforts and through these new collaborations and partnerships,” said Riley, “We’ve measurably improved people’s lives. It’s more proof that positive change is happening today in the Black Belt. These children received the eye care they needed but didn’t have access to and now stand a better chance at succeeding in school and throughout their lives.”

Along with the 12,000 screenings, the BBAC also provided vision screenings to 12,088 children and then 1,569 received follow-up screenings and glasses.

“What we’ve done with these screenings have been absolutely amazing,” said Riley. “A lot of these things are items that could cause the child to lose their eye-sight.”

More over, 269 of those screened had the opportunity to receive treatment that literally saved their vision.

“You want to get test scores up in school,” said Riley. “You can’t when you can’t see the blackboard.”

Collin McDaniel is an example of that.

McDaniel is a six-year-old that had a degenerative eye disorder corrected and fixed thanks to the efforts of the BBAC.

“I can see out of my glasses now,” said McDaniel at Monday’s press conference.

Riley also pointed out that over 3,000 adults have been through and had free eye screenings. Of those that were screened, 1,200 of them received follow-up eye care.

“The BBAC has provided us a framework where we can come together,” said Jeff Haddox of Sight Savers of Alabama. “Everyone knows that there has been poor access to medical care in the Black Belt, but that is changing.”

The BBAC brought together the Black Belt Eye Care Consortium which is comprised of Sight Savers of Alabama, UAB rural Alabama Diabetes and Glaucoma Initiative, Eye Care Alabama, UAB Department of Ophthalmology, Vision Research Corporation, Impact Alabama, UAB School of Optometry and Alabama Lions Sight Conservation Association.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that Alabama Department of Education has been funding Sight Savers as well as the Monday Morning Quarterback Club from Birmingham,” said Haddox.

Prior to the establishment of the BBAC in 2004, several existing organizations provided vision screenings, referrals and treatment but because their efforts were not coordinated, some work was duplicated while many children were left unserved. The eight groups banded together and now these groups work closely to coordinate their schedules to ensure that each child who fails an eye exam receives quick follow-up care and treatment.

While each of the eight organizations were represented by a spokesperson or a group of people, one organization was not – the City of Selma.

Dallas County Commissioner and Probate Judge candidate Kim Ballard was on hand for the event while no representatives from the City of Selma were present.