April 21, 2000

Local Schools to Take Advantage of Program that Provides Vision Screenings For Underserved Children

Every year, an estimated 200,000 children in the United States become permanently blind as a result of undetected vision impairment. Many of these cases could be prevented if children had access to adequate optical screenings. However, many come from low-income families who cannot afford private health insurance and therefore rarely receive any form of preventive treatment, except for health screenings through school nurses. Alpha of San Diego, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting underserved families with social and advocacy services, will expand its Vision and Health Care Advocacy program by providing hundreds of underprivileged children with vision screenings at various elementary schools throughout San Diego.

The Alpha Vision and Health Care Advocacy (VHA) program currently provides volunteers from the members of the North Park Kiwanis and community to help school nurses conduct vision screenings for elementary schools students. The program also provides case managers who provide follow-up with families if further vision or other (such as auditory, dental) treatment is required. Moreover, the program enrolls eligible families in state-funded programs, such as Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.

With a $314,433 grant from The California Endowment, Alpha will expand its school-based program to reach 28 elementary and middle schools and impact an estimated 675 families during the next three years. The grant will also allow the program to recruit and train 14 volunteers and three part-time case managers. The goal of the project is to reduce the number of children affected by vision impairment and ensure that they receive proper preventive treatment before it's too late.

"The California Endowment has been instrumental in allowing us to expand our range of services, thus allowing us to reach more children that otherwise might not have access to basic medical services such as vision screenings," said A. Donald Verry, executive director, Alpha of San Diego, Inc. "We expect that upon the completion of the three-year grant, more children from low-income families will receive comprehensive vision screenings and many others will be enrolled in Medi-Cal or Healthy Families."

"When children, especially those still in grade school, suffer from poor vision, it can hinder their potential to succeed in school and ultimately put them at-risk for other negative health outcomes." Alpha of San Diego recognized that early detection of vision impairment is critical to the overall health of a child," said Francisco Gomez, program officer, The California Endowment. "The Alpha Vision and Health Care Advocacy program clearly falls within The Endowment's goal to assist families in gaining access to health care services. We are confident that this grant will help hundreds of children receive vision services catered to their specific needs."

The California Endowment was established in 1996 as a private foundation. The Endowment maintains offices in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Fresno and San Diego, and has staff working throughout the state. The Endowment is the largest private health funder in California.

The mission of The California Endowment is to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. The Endowment makes grants to organizations and institutions that directly benefit the health and well-being of the people of California. More information of The California Endowment may be obtained by visiting www.calendow.org.

Alpha of San Diego was formed as a non-profit organization in 1972. Started as a drop-in counseling center, Alpha currently provides a comprehensive array of social and advocacy services at their two community centers to an average of 5,000 individuals per month. Services include youth and family counseling, parent skill trainings, supplemental food programs and student vision and health care advocacy. For more information on Alpha of San Diego, Inc. please call (619) 285-9999.

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