February 6, 2013
Over 950,000 people in New Jersey are at risk for eye disease
In New Jersey, an estimated 950,000 people over the age of 40 have potentially blinding eye diseases. Additionally, over 75,000 residents are visually impaired and 35,000 are blind. In adults, visual impairment can result in the loss of personal independence, decreased quality of life, and difficulty in maintaining employment. Impairments can lead to the need for disability payments, social services, and assisted living placement.
These staggering figures and the consequences of visual impairment inspired the Community Foundation to become involved in this critical issue. As a result, it has made a series of collaborative grants focused on helping people with vision diseases and impairment.
Funding was made possible through the newly established Monmouth Fund, a pool of unrestricted money created by donors in Monmouth County that allows flexible and nimble responses to community issues. Supplementing these dollars were funds that the Alkemade family entrusted to the Community Foundation for the ongoing prevention of vision loss.
Throughout the granting process the Community Foundation consulted with expert organizations in the field, and worked with partnering donors to make the greatest impact.
Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in the world. Over 650,000 New Jersey residents have this eye disease. In the United States, treatment is widely available, however, the disease still accounts for a significant amount of vision impairment for those who have difficulty accessing appropriate eye care due to cost, availability, or other barriers. In light of this, the Community Foundation made a challenge grant to purchase cataract surgery equipment for CentraState Medical Center. The grant challenge was met by twelve Lions’ Clubs, the hospital foundation, and their donors.
Diagnosis. The Monmouth County Literacy Volunteers (MCLV) works with adults who have learning disabilities. This group has found that some of their patients’ disabilities stem from vision impairments that were never diagnosed from childhood. The Community Foundation worked with MCLV to provide funding for the Power Path Kit designed to detect vision loss that may impede an individuals’ ability to read. The Literacy Volunteers now use the Power Path Kit to screen their clients for learning disabilities stemming from sight and vision handicaps.
Special Solutions for Special Needs. The Association for Multiple Impaired Blind (AMIB) is an organization that serves individuals who are blind and have multiple impairments. With facilities across New Jersey, it recently constructed a new home designed from the ground up which serves as a model for barrier free, independent living. The first of its kind in the state, AMIB offers housing for eight elderly adults with significant needs. The Community Foundation made a gift to the group’s capital campaign to help finance the home’s construction.
Diabetic Retinopathy is a common and severe complication of diabetes that also increases the risk of other eye diseases. Because of its dangers to good vision, educating people with diabetes about this is very important, as is proper treatment and care. The Community Foundation talked with the Visiting Nurses Association Medical Center (VNAMC) and the Parker Family Health Center to learn the best way to help their work in this area. A grant was then made to hire a nutritionist for VNAMC and a Chronic Care Nurse for the Parker Family Health Center.