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By Satina Richardson
UAB News

UAB Eye Care, the clinical arm of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, is partnering with the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice to provide eye care for previously incarcerated men age 50 and up who are preparing to reenter society. This partnership helps eliminate the barrier of access to eye and vision care for men who are preparing for reentry.

The Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice provides second chances for men age 50 years and up after incarceration for offenses without physical injury. Most of its clients have few resources readily available at the time of reentry, so the organization provides essentials, including clothing, transportation and referrals for medical care. Part of their reentry support includes access to free eye care and free glasses through UAB Eye Care.

The partnership with UAB’s Community Eye Care, the community service section of UAB Eye Care, began in 2021. Since then, UAB’s CEC team has provided care to all Appleseed clients going through the reentry process.

“Eye care is a vital part of a routine health care regimen,” said Janene Sims, OD, Ph.D., director of CEC. “Not having a comprehensive eye exam over a period puts your vision at risk since many conditions are not obvious until vision loss occurs. We are excited to be able to partner with Appleseed to help provide eye care to their clients. ”

Comprehensive eye exams provide early detection of other, non-vision-related health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers, which might otherwise go undiagnosed and untreated.

“Decades without a thorough eye exam can be detrimental to a person’s health, so Appleseed prioritizes eye exams, in addition to other general medical exams, for the average client,” said Alex McKenzie LaGanke, JD, Appleseed staff attorney. “Being able to provide our clients with access to eye care through UAB Eye Care not only ensures safe driving and workplace safety but also rules out various illness and disease, among other precautions, all of which are essential to successful reentry.”

Joe Bennett is one of Appleseed’s clients who visited UAB Eye Care. Bennett was released from Prison in 2021 due in part to changes in the Alabama Habitual Felony Offender Act. Bennett has been working at a tree service company since his release and is now employed there full time.

“This was the most thorough eye examination I have ever received in my life,” Bennett said. “I am pleased and appreciative to be a patient of UAB Eye Care.”

LaGanke is pleased with the care her clients have received through the partnership.

“UAB Eye Care has displayed the utmost professionalism, consideration and quality of care to our organization and clients,” LaGanke said. “The immense value of Community Eye Care adds to our reentry work and communities generally cannot be quantified.”

Sims says the CEC and Appleseed make a great team.

“Our partnership with Appleseed lines up perfectly with our goal of providing quality care to those in need regardless of their ability to pay,” Sims said. “We feel fortunate to play a role in Enhancing the lives of people in need and look forward to a relationship that will last for years to come.”

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