GREENBELT – A local organization, the Retina Group of Washington (RGW) is joining forces with the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind (CLB) to help identify and treat people who are at risk of getting retinal disease. “There’s close to 70,000 people that are visually impaired or blind and it’s a question of how do we […]
GREENBELT – A local organization, the Retina Group of Washington (RGW) is joining forces with the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind (CLB) to help identify and treat people who are at risk of getting retinal disease.
“There’s close to 70,000 people that are visually impaired or blind and it’s a question of how do we reach this population?” said Tony Cancelosi, president and chief executive officer. “That’s why the Retina Group partnership was so important because a lot of the patients and individuals that we see come from the state agencies. It doesn’t come from the private practices of doctors like the retina group. That’s going to open up a whole new brand of potential people that we can help.”
The organizations formed the partnership in response to the pressing need to improve the percentage of people that take advantage of new and improved treatment options for eye disease, Cancelosi said.
“We want to educate people to the point that there is macular degeneration that it could happen to you,” Cancelosi said. “It might not happen to everyone but it’s going to happen to some and most likely more than what we think.”
The partnership will allow RGW to integrate its screening and treatment services with Columbia Lighthouse’s preventative care and rehabilitation programs in order to meet the needs of the community. Currently, Columbia Lighthouse provides services to people in the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area who are blind or have troubled vision.
“The partnership is going to expand our capacity to the community,” said Cancelosi. “It will give us the opportunity to interact with them in reference to independent living skills or mobility and it will combine what we’re calling early intervention..and we can prepare them by helping them understand what happened from their blindness but also assure them that there’s a way to still be very active, proactive, still read, still participate in the community.”
Dr. Mark Johnson from Retina Group of Washington said his greatest concern is for residents in Prince George’s County who are black or Hispanic, who could suffer complications from diabetes, which is prevalent in both demographics.
“There’s about 17,000 or 18,000 people in Prince George’s County that have various low-vision and blindness in Prince George’s County,” said Cancelosi. Columbia Lighthouse and RGW are stepping forward with initiatives such as a mobile van to help educate and assist people who are at risk for retinal disease.
“The advantage of using the van is that we can bring services to people that perhaps are getting into the office and getting out into the communities and it raises awareness and it also facilitates screening large amounts of people in short periods of time,” Johnson said.
According to Cancelosi, the most important part of the relationship between CLB and RGW is the ability to create an early intervention program which he hopes will lead to starting an early intervention clinic. The clinic would be a place where when people are diagnosed, they would be able to receive travel training and independent living skills such as learning how to organize where they live, how to cook and how to dress themselves so that they can be independent. Assisted technology skills will also be offered to give patients the skills to use their computer and their smart phone. These educational services will be provided continually.
“I look at it as aftercare but it’s preventive care also to give those individuals an opportunity so you don’t just go blind, there is something in place to guide you to the next step,” said Cancelosi.
Services from CLB and RGW are covered by health insurance. When health insurance is not available, the organizations have access to grant funding which can cover people that are uninsured or underinsured.
“The idea is to not let insurance or money get in the way of people who may have vision loss,” said Johnson.