Many of us have family members and neighbors who have vision loss or blindness, whether it is from age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma or some other cause.

I urge support of LD765, a bill to be debated on Jan. 18 in the Legislature. This bill requests that professionals be hired in Maine’s Vision Rehabilitation Services to fill positions vacant because of state hiring freezes or identified as documented shortages. Some of these positions include vision rehabilitation therapists, teachers of the visually impaired and blindness rehabilitation specialists.

As a result of these shortages, Mainers of all ages suffering vision loss are waiting much longer for services to be provided and experiencing greater limitations in the scope of services available.

The shortages limit the professional training in daily living skills and employment skills these people need, having a negative impact on their ability to maintain independence at home, in their community and on the job. And those things all cost us money.

According to a Genworth cost survey, the average annual cost of assisted living care in Maine is $55,000. How much Medicaid funding is used to support Mainers who lost their independence because of vision loss and the inability or delay of appropriate rehabilitation services that may have enabled them to continue living independently at home?

How many more Mainers who are blind or visually impaired might be employed with increased access to these rehabilitation professionals?

These services are provided statewide through the Department of Labor’s Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and are not paid for through MaineCare, Medicaid or private health insurance.

Steven Kelley

Vision rehabilitation therapist

The Iris Network

Portland


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