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Central Piedmont Community College is now offering free eye care

David Travis

Central Piedmont Community College is opening a free eye care clinic on June 15 in the Leon Levine Health Sciences building on Charlottetowne Avenue. The clinic will offer free vision exams and eyeglasses to uninsured and low-income patients. Clinical services will be provided by professional volunteers in the ophthalmic community and faculty in Central Piedmont’s Opthalmic Medical Personnel Program. Students who work at the clinic will receive clinical hours toward their degree.

Central Piedmont’s clinic will replace the Lions Services eye clinic, which closed on April 1 after operating in Charlotte for more than twenty-five years. Lions Services has donated all its equipment and supplies to Central Piedmont.

The new clinic is tentatively scheduled to be open one full day and one half day each week, according to Kathleen Rodgers, the program chair for Central Piedmont’s Ophthalmic Medical Personnel program. It’s estimated the clinic will see about 25 to 30 patients per week.

Lions Services, which is primarily a textile manufacturer, decided to close the eye clinic after a decrease in government orders for textile products, according to President and CEO Philip Murph. The non-profit was no longer able to fund both the clinic and its production facilities, which primarily employ people who are blind. Patients and volunteers were notified of the decision to close the clinic at the beginning of the year.

"Cutting out that extra overhead at the eye clinic allowed us to focus on our mission of providing opportunities for blind people," Murph said.

Central Piedmont decided to continue the free eye services after Rodgers was approached by the physicians who previously volunteered at the Lions Services' clinic.

"I just thought it was a good opportunity for Central Piedmont to continue working in the community and provide services that are valuable," Rodgers said.

Rodgers believes it is important for residents to receive annual eye exams to help manage other diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and cancer.

“If a patient just simply needs a pair of glasses, that improvement in vision can be significant. It may mean they're able to go get the job that they've wanted or be able to interact with family that they previously couldn't,” she said. "The other side of that, what most people do not realize, is when you are having an eye exam, there's a lot of (systemic) diseases that show up in the visual system."

Murph emphasized the importance of providing free and low-cost eye care services. For many people, eye care is not covered by healthcare.

"Everyone's important in the community,” Murph said. “I think it's a great benefit and opportunity that CPCC has stepped up and said we're going to take on this mission and fill this purpose that needs to be filled in our community."

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Kamille Houston is a WFAE intern covering stories grounded in community outreach and engagement. She is currently studying English at the University of Pennsylvania, where she writes on race and equity for the student newspaper The Daily Pennsylvanian.