SB 187 PASSES UNANIMOUSLY!
We’re thrilled to provide an update on the status of SB 187 and the successful advocacy effort that took place during the 2017 Oregon Legislative session. As many are aware, in early July the Bill was voted on in both the Senate and the House and in both cases SB 187 was passed unanimously!
In fact, including the Senate Education Committee Hearing on February 14th, the Ways and Means Education Subcommittee meeting on June 14th, and the full Ways and Means Committee meeting on June 28th, the Bill was passed unanimously in every vote that took place.
Oregon Lions and OLSHF Staff filled two hearing rooms on June 14th, as SB 187 was heard in Ways and Means Education Committee. The Bill was moved out of committee unanimously, with a “Do Pass” recommendation.
The Bill was signed into law by Governor Brown and OLSHF has requested a ceremonial Bill signing ceremony with the Governor. We will notify Oregon Lions if this is granted so that you can take part in a celebratory occasion at the State Capitol in Salem. There are a number of requests for ceremonial signings and it may be weeks or even months before this might take place. We will keep Lions in the loop as we learn more on this.
The success that OLSHF has had in advocating for public funding certainly is due in large part to the increased awareness that legislators have for OLSHF, Lions, and the accurate and efficient vision screening process provided by MHSP. However, it is important that you all know that it is because of the work that Lions have done throughout the state – in large schools and especially in Oregon’s smaller schools – that has raised the awareness of the need for vision screening in schools AND enhanced the credibility of OLSHF’s ability to screen accurately and efficiently. This Bill would not have passed without Lions and the work that we have done since OLSHF expanded our school vision screening program.
For that, we THANK YOU for your dedication to children’s vision health and for your passion for the MHSP school vision screening program.
At this time, OLSHF is working with the Oregon Department of Education to develop administrative rules for how public funding can be used. Some key details for you to know are:
- The new law will create a Vision Health Fund and will have $1 million for the two-year biennium that began July 1st
- The Oregon Department of Education is authorized to use up to 10% of these funds to administrate the fund. (Key legislators will be upset if they use that much)
- Approved Providers (Such as OLSHF) will be able to be reimbursed up to $3.20 per student for vision screenings
So, with approximately $450,000 being made available each year for the next two years, the Vision Health Fund will provide resources for approximately 140,625 Oregon school children to be screened each year. OLSHF will need to continue to raise funds from the private sector in order to maintain the number of students screened (175,000+) these past two years. As you can see, SB 187 will not provide funding for all Oregon school children to be screened BUT it should allow for the number of students screened for vision issues in Oregon to be sustained at the level that OLSHF is currently screening. It’s important to know that without state funding OLSHF would have had to significantly reduce the number of students screened since we have been spending operating reserves to keep the program at the level that we have the last few years. So, while there may not be a net gain in the numbers of children screened this year, we hope you’ll agree that this is a huge victory to be able to maintain the screening numbers at the level we’ve achieved.
All that said, there is no guarantee that OLSHF will receive all of the state funding. We are in the process of connecting with schools to confirm dates that they have requested for the 2017-18 school year and we have every reason to believe that most, if not all, of these schools will prefer OLSHF to coordinate their vision screenings.
We will be involved in the process of writing the Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) for the new law once that process begins. We will work hard to ensure that there is language in the rules that provide for minimum standards for vision screenings. We will be working most likely with the Oregon Optometrists Physicians Association (OOPA) and the Oregon Academy of Ophthalmologists (OAO) to help write these standards into the Oregon Administrative Rules.
As you can see there is still work to be done, but in many ways, the biggest hurdle is behind us. Please feel free to let us know if you have questions or concerns about the advocacy process of passing the Bill, about the OAR process, or anything pertaining to communicating with schools later this summer.
It is a great time to be part of the Oregon Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation and we thank you for being part of the OLSHF Family!