Most Viewed Stories
Mobile clinic offers low-cost eye care
Yuma resident Marta Baez hasn't had glasses in about 15 years; she said that's because she hasn't been able to afford them.
Thursday, Baez and about 20 others received eye care, including glasses, free of charge, at a mobile eye clinic in San Luis sponsored by the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) Sight Conservation department.
But that could change with recent budget cuts to DES and the elimination of the department, said Greg King, coordinator for the Arizona Medical Eye Unit, that partners with the Lions Club International.
Currently, the department helps provide low-income residents throughout Arizona with check ups and glasses, with a total budget of about $240,000 and four employees, King said.
"Because of the state budget problem, the whole program is ending," he said.
Through the program, they visit about 40 communities in Arizona, with most of the clinics open to the public that give Arizonans a chance to receive eye care for $35. But they also have clinics such as the one in San Luis Thursday, King said, where residents are able to receive free care.
The clinic has been in operation for 30 years.
The pay clinics will still continue, but King said due to state budget cuts, the free clinics in San Luis and other rural areas will stop after they hold their last clinic this weekend.
It's a popular resource for residents such as Baez.
She said she's been on the waiting list for a year.
"I always wanted to have my glasses but I can't afford them, and now I'm going to have them back," she said.
Without glasses, Baez said life is "hard" and it's "embarrassing to be closing half your eyes to see."
And trying to read gave her a headache, she said
"How embarrassing it is to hold (a paper) up to your face," she said.
Dr. Chaman Luthra, the ophthalmologist who's been volunteering at the mobile clinic for the last 30 years said he's confident they'll find another source of funding so they can continue to provide free services for residents in rural areas.
"It's temporary," he said. "I have to discover (funding) like Columbus - every day something," he said.
King said they are currently discussing an alternate form of revenue for another organization, but there are no additional details at this time.
Luthra said if the program does go away, a lot of Yuma County residents will be sad.
"Oh they'll be devastated that they won't be able to get this service, and angry," he said. "These people wait over six months.
"Especially here in San Luis, where we only come once a year," Luthra said.
And it's not just the rural areas and eye check ups, King said.
"The mobile eye unit is only a small part of DES sight conservation," King said.
There are large clinics in other areas of the state, and at the mobile unit, they're also able to help educate people about eye health.
Eye disease associated with diabetes is common, Luthra said, and it's important to help educate people.
But Luthra said he will remain confident.
"We have resources, we just need to coordinate them."
Stephanie A. Wilken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6857.