Free glasses program paused in Ky. due to license issues

Updated: Jul. 5, 2019 at 9:50 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - For nearly 30 years, a Louisville man said he has provided prescription glasses to people who are homeless and who live in under-served communities.

Halland Kendall is President of Kendall Optometry Ministry. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Halland Kendall is President of Kendall Optometry Ministry. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

Now he said he has to stop providing that service in Kentucky because of what his ministry is lacking.

Halland Kendall is President of Kendall Optometry Ministry. He said he has provided more than 700,000 glasses to people in 79 countries, and a portion of those glasses were given out in Kentucky.

However, a local optometrist said without a license, Kendall is missing important steps.

Kendall said volunteers help him sort through thousands of donated glasses. The electrical engineer started his ministry to help the homeless.

“We help them because they can’t help themselves,” Kendall said. “Over again I’ve had them say ‘I can’t see. I can’t get a job.'”

However, without a license, he says the Kentucky Optometry Board has stopped him from providing glasses in Kentucky.

"If I get someone that’s within 90 percent of the prescription, then they will be able to see,” Kendall said.

The glasses are shipped to countries around the world. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
The glasses are shipped to countries around the world. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

That’s not good enough, Dr. Mark Stovall, with Drs. Vance & Stovall, said.

"Even if there’s 90 percent, there’s still 10 percent that may have issues,’ Stovall said.

Stovall said Kendall’s efforts are noble, but to stay on the right path he needs an optometrist available through the whole process.

“There’s a fine art of prescriptions,” Stovall said. “If it’s not done by a licensed optometrist, what’s going to happen down the road? If there is a problem, who’s going to help these patients?”

Kendall does have a process to matching prescriptions.

“It’s a little device the size of a video camera called retro max,” he explained. "We measure a person’s eyes with that unit and in less than a minute we have that person’s prescription.”

Kendall said people are then fitted and checked against an eye chart for 20/20 or 20/30 vision. Kendall said he’s taken “optometry” out of the title of his free clinics and is interested in making changes that allow him to keep helping people in Kentucky. For now, the sorted glasses are being shipped out of the country.

Kendall said he has an optometrist on his board, but he is not local nor hands on.

WAVE 3 News reached out to The Kentucky Board of Optometric Examiners and Dr. Jonathan Shrewsbury shared this statement:

“The Kentucky Board of Optometric Examiners is charged with applying the laws of the Commonwealth for the general health and welfare of the citizens of Kentucky. Individuals and organizations seeking to aid Kentuckians by distributing glasses should be aware of the following laws:

  • Prescription glasses are considered a medical device as classified by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • As such, they require a valid prescription, written by a qualified MD, DO, or OD (Medical Doctor, Doctor of Osteopathy, or Optometric Doctor). (See KRS 320.300)
  • Dispensing of glasses requires that the glasses be new, first quality, and meet both the individual recipient's personal prescription and American Standard Prescription Requirements. (See 201 KAR 5:120.6)
  • A permanent record of the evaluation of ocular health and the visual system must accompany any testing/prescription for glasses. (See 201 KAR 5:040.7)
  • It is unlawful to practice these skills without a license (See 320.300) or to represent oneself as being engaged in the practice of optometry by name or advertisement (320.210.2(c)) without a valid license. See also KRS 320.990.
  • 201 KAR 5:120 makes provision for licensed optometrist to assist charitable organizations in dispensing glasses.

The Kentucky Board of Optometric Examiners (KBOE) proudly supports the charitable practice of optometry when it complies with existing state and federal laws, and has worked with several groups to help them meet these requirements including, but not limited to, Remote Area Missions, Special Olympics Kentucky and the Kentucky Vision Project. KBOE would recommend that Kentuckians interested in providing glasses to residents familiarize themselves with and abide by Kentucky state law. The Board also encourages the community to reach out to Dinah Bevington, Executive Director of the Kentucky Optometric Association (KOA), to learn how they can partner with licensed optometrists to serve the underprivileged in Kentucky.”

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