(Excerpt from a Richmond Times Dispatch article)
Nearly 1 in 3 Richmond Public Schools students are in school with untreated eye problems. A local nonprofit organization is working to address that.
Chesterfield County-based Conexus has given vision screenings to more than 21,000 city students since 2015, referring 32 percent of them for further testing — a rate exceeding the national average of 25 percent. Last school year, 1,243 students ended up with glasses because of it.
“With a certain percentage of kids, it’s just not going to happen if we don’t make it happen,” said Timothy L. Gresham, the president and CEO of Conexus since 1992. “It’s a bad cycle to be in, and we have a solution.”
Click HERE to read the article in its entirety.
As we begin the countdown to serve our 100,000th student through our technology-based comprehensive children’s program, we are especially grateful to some of our supporters and funders who invested in the early work of our programs.
MEDARVA, once known as Richmond Eye and Ear, was the initial funder of our technology based screening in Richmond. MEDARVA was so confident in the work of Conexus, they granted a five-year award to explore the possibilities! Conexus hit the ground running and worked with a panel of early education experts to develop a best practice vision and hearing screening program for Pre-K students, which came to be known as W.H.E.E.L.S.
By year five Conexus had delivered W.H.E.E.L.S. programming to more than 16,500 Pre-K students, referring over 3,600 for follow-up vision care. Technology, incorporated into a comprehensive program, had proven itself to be efficient and effective and parents and schools were pouring in positive responses to the Conexus program and services.
In 2015, at the close of five years, MEDARVA was so pleased with the outcome of the W.H.E.E.L.S. program they elected to use the project as a stepping stone to create their own MEDARVA branded Pre-K hearing and vision screening program.
MEDARVA’S good instincts to invest in Conexus' programs not only created an opportunity for MEDARVA to branch out into Pre-K screenings, but it acted as a catalyst for Conexus’ explosive growth. Through the early work of W.H.E.E.L.S, designed solely for local delivery to a maximum of 3,500 Pre-K students annually, Conexus was able to create what’s become known as VisioCheck. VisioCheck is currently serving more than 30,000 Pre-K through 12th grade students annually across the Commonwealth, with the capacity to reach 200,000 in Virginia alone. We are so thankful for one of our earliest investors who helped us to start small but gave us the capacity to think big!!
The results are in on the first school to be fully serviced through Richmond Mobile, a collaborative effort between Conexus and California-based Vision To Learn. Services to this school not only confirmed the tremendous need for vision services in Richmond, but also demonstrated the value of this collaborative partnership!
Conexus programming identified 126 students in need of follow-up vision care (32% of enrolled students). Redd staff immediately went to work to encourage participation in the mobile clinic and were able to secure 104 (83%) returned parental permission slips! For two and a half days the Vision To Learn team delivered 104 onsite eye exams and prescribed 97 (93%) pair of glasses.
The success rate of this launch school has been overwhelming! Through the efficiencies and effectiveness of VisioCheck, more of the “right” students were identified for the services of the mobile clinic. The visiting Vision To Learn optometrist from Detroit said on the first day, “not only did we see 34 students, we prescribed 34 pairs of glasses - that NEVER happens!” One of Vision To Learn’s most difficult challenges in their service delivery across the country is getting the right kids to the clinic and that all starts with the screening — a process that is normally handled through the services of the host community. “The first thing I did when I got finished today was call my boss to tell him, ‘we need this!’”, said Dr. Megan, VTL optometrist.
Conexus purposefully and meticulously designed the VisioCheck program with some of the most common challenges of school based vision screenings in mind and watching VisioCheck operate so effectively in conjunction with a mobile clinic has been very rewarding. We are excited to be a part of such a dynamic partnership and one with such potential for growth and service!
Last week, Conexus technicians delivered VisioCheck to the 389 students at Redd Elementary in Richmond. The technology based, comprehensive vision program identified 126 students (32%) with potential vision problems, which is well above the 25% national average. Every child will be sent home with their individualized screening report this week. The simplistic yet informative report is designed to communicate screening results with parents and encourage compliance with the recommended follow-up.
The Richmond Mobile Project is one of the cornerstone projects of the Kids 20/20 Campaign and is a collaboration with Los Angeles-based Vision to Learn (VTL). Vision to Learn will bring its full service mobile clinic to Richmond Public Schools to offer onsite eye exams-and glasses if needed-to the students found to have a potential vision problem through the Conexus VisioCheck program. The Conexus screening reports for referred students have been modified for this collaboration to double as a permission form for the on-site eye exams. Conexus and VTL hope that streamlined parental communications and school support through the collaborative partnership will result in a high parental response on program permissions and utilization of the onsite clinic.
The VTL mobile clinic will be visiting Redd Elementary in early October to provide eye exams to referred students, and those who need glasses will get to pick out their frames the same day! Glasses are then sent to the lab for processing and will be returned to students at an assembly on October 26th, which will be the official division-wide launch of the program. This process will continue through the 2018/2019 school year, eventually providing VisioCheck programs to over 26,000 students and exams and glasses to as many as 6,500!
Yesterday, Conexus was again featured on Richmond's Channel 8 Showcase, in a segment sponsored by Haley Buick GMC to highlight our mission and our Kids 20/20 Campaign.
We are grateful to Haley for their support of our mission and for their help in raising awareness of the importance of children's vision to their success in school.
In mid-July Conexus was approached by a California-based non-profit, Vision to Learn (VTL), to discuss a possible collaborative effort. VTL has been delivering mobile vision clinics to high need school divisions across the country for the last five years and a large grant through the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative had recently provided them the opportunity to double their national footprint over the course of the next year. Richmond was identified as a community in need of mobile clinic services.
After nearly a month of discussions between the two organizations, potential funders, and Richmond Public Schools the organizations developed a mutually beneficial model of service delivery. Conexus will deliver its technology based comprehensive children’s vision program, VisioCheck, to more than 15,000 RPS students this school year year, and as students are identified as needing follow-up services, the VTL mobile clinic will move through the schools to deliver on-site eye exams and glasses.
This is an exciting opportunity for both Conexus and Vision to Learn and a wonderful ongoing resource for students in Richmond Public Schools. More to come!
Conexus was approached in the Fall of 2016 by Friends of Barnabas (FOB), a local non-profit with a mission to improve the lives of impoverished children in Honduras by providing high quality sustainable medical care and enabling communities to become self-sufficient through community health training and education. After months of planning and coordination, Conexus President and CEO, Tim Gresham, and Conexus Screening Technician, Corrine Huber, traveled with a Health Mission team to Honduras for 6 days to support the development of a technology based vision program for the remote villages of Honduras. “This trip was an exciting opportunity to take and test our program outside of the US and contribute to a population desperately in need,” says Gresham. The Conexus team consulted with and trained local FOB staff as to how to incorporate technology to its fullest capacity in the field translating into improved onsite services in the clinics.