Savie Health and SEE International partner to offer free vision care to uninsured patients in North County

Photo courtesy of SEE International
PROVIDING EYE CARE: In order to address the needs of the whole person and right some of the historic health inequities in North County, Savie Health and SEE International are partnering to open a new vision care clinic, which will be operating every other Friday from noon to 4 p.m. at Savie’s Lompoc location.

Savie Health opened its doors in Lompoc almost two years ago as a free health care clinic that provides primary care for people without insurance. In that time, the clinic’s seen almost 900 patients who don’t have insurance, Savie Executive Director Eryn Shugart told the Sun

To expand its services, Savie partnered with Surgical Eye Expeditions (SEE) International—a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit that provides vision care—in order to bring comprehensive eye exams, glasses, and eye care referrals to uninsured North County residents. 

“Savie Health has had patients on a waiting list for vision care, and we have been unable to offer this until now,” Shugart said. “This is a wonderful opportunity for uninsured community members to be able to access health care services. They can access primary care, behavioral health care, and now they can access vision care services.”

The new eye clinic will be open on Friday, Jan. 12, with an open house from noon to 1 p.m. that will have light refreshments and give patients a chance to learn more about the program. It will provide services every other Friday from noon to 4 p.m., she said. 

A big focus of ours is health equity, which is to ensure that all people, regardless of personal characteristics like race or money earned, have an equal ability to be as healthy as possible,” Shugart said. “We feel our services are working to improve health equity in northern Santa Barbara County because these services are available when they have not been available for free.” 

SEE International has been providing vision care to Central Coast communities since the 1980s and currently has five clinics near Santa Barbara and in Ventura County. The nonprofit had a vision care clinic in North County for years, but it closed in March 2023 when the doctor retired, said Anisha Verdialez, SEE International’s director of local and domestic programs. 

“Our goal is access to care. We know that it’s been an issue. We do have high poverty rates and uninsured rates in North County,” Verdialez said. 

When the North County clinic closed, it created a waiting list and caused residents to travel to the nearest clinic in Goleta to seek care, she said.

“I think that this was just a perfect collaboration, and the timing couldn’t have been better. Both of our agencies were just waiting for this, and we were so happy that we came to an agreement that this was something we could offer,” Verdialez said. 

Verdialez and Shugart both said that they would like to see more days offered for vision care, but that change will depend on appointments and the capacities for each agency. Shugart added that Savie would eventually like to add dental care, but that’s still a work in progress. 

“Similarly to SEE International, Savie Health has had patients on a waiting list for vision care and we have been unable to offer this until now,” Shugart said. “Previously, we had to send them to our SLO clinic, and many of them can’t go that far. We have a wait-list of folks who are really looking forward to accessing these services.” 

Savie Health is located at 1111 E. Ocean Ave. RSVP for the vision care clinic’s open house at [email protected]. Visit to make an appointment. 


• The Santa Maria Utilities Department is offering free showerheads for Santa Maria water customers (verification required) throughout January. Qualifying customers can receive up to two new low-flow rated Watersense showerheads in exchange for old showerheads, in addition to one water conservation kit per household while supplies last. Customers must contact the Utilities Department in advance at (805) 925-0951, Ext. 7270. Bring two old showerheads to the Utilities Department administration office located at the Santa Maria Regional Landfill, 2065 East Main St.

• More than 40 service agencies and associations, as well as community nonprofits and organizations, in Santa Barbara and SLO counties have received or will receive benefits funding from the local health plan by CenCal Health. By the end of 2023, more $530,000 had been distributed by the local Medi-Cal health plan to support and improve the overall health and wellness of communities in its two-county service area. “Community Benefits” is CenCal Health’s initiative for subsidizing local health-related programs and community services that align with the health plan’s mission; it includes a budget for grants, event sponsorships, and other types of funding that advance and enhance both Medi-Cal and other safety net priorities, as well as the strategic interests of local communities. In 2023, the largest dollar amounts were distributed to Communify in Santa Barbara County, Meals that Connect in SLO County, and Camp Mariposas in both Santa Barbara and SLO counties.

Reach Staff Writer Taylor O’Connor at [email protected].

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