The Lions Low Vision Rehabilitation Network (LOVRNET) is a community-based healthcare program developed by the Lions of Multiple District 22 (Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia) to enhance care for people with low vision. Low vision is a condition caused by eye disease that cannot be corrected or improved with regular eyeglasses, contact lenses, or other standard treatments like medications or surgery. Individuals with low vision find it difficult to do everyday activities such as reading and driving.
The most recent estimates indicate that between 4 and 5 million Americans presently have low vision, with about 250,000 new cases occurring each year. Eighty percent of those with low vision are over age 65. As the baby boomer generation ages, the number of people with low vision is expected to double over the next two decades.
In 2013, Lions Clubs International Foundation’s SightFirst Program and the Readers Digest Partners for the Sight Foundation provided grants to the Lions Vision Research Foundation for a three-year pilot project. Partnering with the low vision staff of the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute’s Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center, project development began. Initial operations commenced in 2016 with the following goals:
- Create a single “portal” to coordinate optimal services to low vision patients.
- Provide training, support, and consultation services to vision care professionals across a broad spectrum of disciplines so that they can offer vision rehabilitation services as part of their practices.
- Demonstrate that the viability of meeting the growing demands of low vision rehabilitation services can be met by the Lions LOVRNET model and disseminate the educational resources and programs throughout the Lions Multiple District 22.
Lions demonstrated that they could enhance the level of service to low vision patients and that the professional practitioner benefits from the services the Lions provide as volunteers. They are a primary resource in their local community to combat the social stigmas associated with blindness and visual impairment, raise awareness of the problem, and educate the public on the value of rehabilitative services. Lions have been trained to assist the low vision impaired with transportation and minor modifications in their home recommended by the professionals.
The COVID 19 pandemic forced LOVRNET to pause services. Today, the pilot program is moving into a Generation 2 phase that seeks to refine the program to achieve the LOVRNET mission to “Make low vision care available for all who need it.”.
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