LEWISTON, Maine — Students at Lewiston Middle School received free eye exams and glasses Monday as part of a week of free school-based clinics.
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield reached out to Lewiston Public Schools to offer the clinics. The insurance company expects to serve 5,000 students throughout the week.
Optical Academy brought a mobile team of technicians and optometrists to the middle school to screen kids for vision issues and immediately examine any kids who did not pass the initial screenings. From there, students received comprehensive eye exams.
Optometrist Vitto Mena said most students who need eyeglasses will receive their newly prescribed eyewear on site the same day, thanks to Optical Academy’s full-service pop-up optical shop.
The team plans to visit a different school in Lewiston each day. The Anthem Blue View Vision business unit is covering the cost of the clinic and all services are provided to students free of charge.
Mena said that about 10% of the kids in the middle school either had an outdated prescription, had never had an eye exam, or failed the one they received Monday.
Mena said that when kids with eyesight struggles get a prescription that works, they light up with joy.
"They get that wow factor like, 'Oh my gosh, I couldn't have seen that before, and now I'm able to see it.'" So that's what brings excitement to all of us," Mena said.
Karen Paquette, Lewiston's assistant superintendent, said many families in the district do not have the money or insurance to get an eye exam, much less glasses or contacts.
"The barrier is real," she said. "We may not be able to identify that it's eyesight. We may be looking at other things, that if we really could just get them a pair of glasses, then they could move along and be successful. So, it's really exciting."
"The earlier that we can identify prescription as a requirement of a problem, again, I call that one less barrier to learning," Dr. Richard Hom, optometric director for Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, said.