Dr. Doug Henry of Optometric Associates and partners will open a center in downtown Lewiston for children covered under MaineCare to get fitted for glasses. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — After a nearly four-year hiatus, a local optical center where children covered under MaineCare can get fitted for prescription glasses is reopening.

MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program, covers the cost of eye exams and prescription glasses for eligible children younger than 21.

Finding an optometrist who accepts MaineCare for the exam is “usually not a big issue,” Dr. Doug Henry, an optometrist and co-owner of Optometric Associates in Lewiston, said.

But when it comes to actually getting the glasses, “that’s the issue,” he said. According to Henry, many eye doctors’ offices do not accept MaineCare for glasses because the reimbursements are too low and the costs are too high, or simply because they do not have an optician — the person who fits and orders glasses — on staff.

Norma Larocque, a registered nurse and health coordinator for Promise Early Education Center in Lewiston, brought this to Henry’s attention a number of years ago. In 2017, Henry, Larocque and several partners, including Debbie Bourgoin, an optician at his practice, and Lynn Poulin from Community Clinical Services, opened an optical dispensary at the B-Street Health Center in Lewiston.

They received a $6,000 grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, which paid for the equipment. St. Mary’s, which oversees B-Street, provided them a space to use once a week.


In a little more than a two-year period, they were able to distribute 475 pairs of glasses free of charge, Henry said. But in 2019, St. Mary’s was expanding and needed the space back.

Then COVID-19 hit, and any chances of finding another donated space vanished and all the equipment went into storage.

That was until last fall, when Henry was chatting with one of his patients, John Orestis, the president and co-owner of North Country Associates, which operates long-term residential and nursing care facilities throughout the region.

“He was doing an eye exam for me, and he told me about his program and told me he was having trouble finding space to operate the program in and asked if I had any ideas,” Orestis said.

“I said, ‘Well, I have ideas. I probably have something better than that, I probably have space for you.’”

Dr. Doug Henry of Optometric Associates and partners will open a center in downtown Lewiston for children covered under MaineCare to get fitted for glasses. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

It took a few months, but Orestis was able to get Henry and his team space in the same building as North Country’s corporate offices, on the second floor of 179 Lisbon St. in the heart of downtown Lewiston. He said North Country’s chief financial officer and building manager, Glen Cyr, helped make the arrangements.


Orestis said this is a cause close to his heart. He and his wife grew up in Lewiston in what he said were poor households.

“It was important and has been important to us to do what we can for the children of the city,” he said.

Orestis also said that 75 years ago, he was a “beneficiary” of something similar to what Henry and his team are doing now.

When he was 5 years old, Orestis said, a local optometrist was giving him an eye exam when he said that something was wrong with one of his eyes. The optometrist told him and his parents he would need surgery and referred him to an ophthalmologist in Lewiston.

But, as it turned out, the surgery was too complicated for the surgeon to do himself. Orestis would need to go to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where doctors there could perform what Orestis said was at the time cutting-edge surgery.

The Lewiston surgeon helped Orestis’ parents qualify for a program so he could get the surgery and follow-up treatment free of charge.


Without that program, his parents would never have been able to afford the surgery and treatment.

“That’s always been in the back of my mind as something that was, you know, really terrific for me,” Orestis said.

“And so, when Doug mentioned this program and that it resulted in putting glasses on the face of a whole bunch of kids in Lewiston and Auburn … not only intrigued me but it also reminded me that I owed a debt to that whole world from 75 years ago,” Orestis said.

Beginning April 19, the dispensary will be open every Wednesday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Any patient under the age of 21 covered by MaineCare and with an up-to-date prescription can come to get fitted for eyeglasses.

Glasses usually arrive within one to two weeks and adjustments will be provided.

Bourgoin, who worked at the original dispensary, will be back, along with Ashlee Sampson, another optician at Optometric Associates.

Henry said the feedback he’s heard so far from other optometrists has been positive.

“They now have a clear place they can send a patient where their MaineCare insurance is accepted,” he said.

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