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BVRS Moves Enable Service to More People
By Lois Thomson

Erika PetachChanges are taking place at Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services, and all of them are designed to benefit the local community. The most recent change is that the organization has hired a new, full-time doctor in its low vision rehabilitation program.

Erika Petach, president, said the reason for the addition is that BVRS is starting to offer primary care vision services. "We're not just serving the low vision population, but now anybody who needs an eye exam can come to us," she said. The new doctor is Cassandra Fox, and Petach said the organization is quite excited to have her on board.

"We had been searching for someone for at least a year, but we couldn't find the right candidate. We didn't think we would be able to find a doctor with low-vision experience, because it takes special training and not a lot of optometrists get it. But she had done considerable low-vision work and her résumé was great."

Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services serves children through its free vision screening program. The organization also offers annual eye exams for children ages 5 and older.

Hiring Dr. Fox followed BVRS' move to a new location. Originally in Homestead, the facility's current home is now on Locust Street in Uptown, near Mercy Hospital and Duquesne University. Petach explained the reason for the move was that it could be difficult for patients to get to Homestead. BVRS offers low vision rehabilitation, so the clientele is mostly seniors. Driving may not be an option, and public transportation often required taking multiple buses. "You have to make it as easy as possible for them to get to you, so it made sense to move our headquarters to a more central location, where bus transportation was much better."

Once in the new location, Petach said they looked to see what the need was, and realized that being in a low income area means many people may not have access to vision care. "We want to make sure that no one misses out on an annual eye exam. So we are doing everything we can to ensure those who don't have vision insurance or who can't afford devices or glasses have access to this vital service. We recognize that certain health issues such as hypertension or diabetes may not show symptoms, and therefore access to annual eye exams are critical to one's health."

Petach concluded that the decision to offer primary vision care was a big investment, "but we believe our mission is to help people with or without vision loss."

For more information, call (412) 368-4400 or visit www.bvrspittsburgh.org.

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