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Helping Kids See Clearly

Healthy vision is an important part of reading and learning. If a child suffers from an untreated vision problem, the child may have trouble in school.

“Children who are found to have vision issues may also have reading issues or vice versa,” said Brenda Dunn, program manager of New Mexico Lions Operation KidSight (NMLOKS), a Las Cruces-based nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying and treating vision problems in children throughout the state.

Unfortunately, many families face significant barriers to accessing vision care and eyeglasses — like lack of health insurance or the inability to afford services. To help address this problem, NMLOKS and the New Mexico Lions Crane Reading Program (LCRP) are working to address reading and vision problems by providing eye screenings and referrals for exams and glasses at no cost to children in need.

This year, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico (BCBSNM) awarded the New Mexico Lions Crane Reading Program a $19,625 Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® grant, which covers the cost of eye exams and glasses for children 3-7 years-old and adults who do not have health insurance or Medicaid. So far this year, the grant from BCBSNM has covered nearly 160 eye exams and/or glasses for children and adults who may not otherwise have received vision care.

“That was a shortfall that we had,” said Bryson McCool, NMLOKS secretary/treasurer. “Now there’s no reason why any child in New Mexico should not receive an eye exam.”

The 3-7 age range is a critical time to identify and correct vision problems.

“During that time, your eyes are developing,” McCool said.

Early identification and treatment of vision problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism – which are considered risk factors of amblyopia, or lazy eye – may help prevent difficulties learning and even vision loss.

NMLOKS provides vision screenings for more than 40,000 children every year at schools, child care centers, health fairs and other locations. If a student without health insurance needs an eye exam or glasses, the child receives a voucher to receive services at no cost.

“Many of our children have vision problems,” said George Mulholland, LCRP president. “Most problems can be easily corrected with a proper pair of glasses.”

A Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association