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Excellus commits $90,000 to A.V.R.E. program over 3 years

BINGHAMTON — A new partnership between the Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment, Inc. (A.V.R.E.) and Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is about more than just funding. It’s about keeping a program going that helps visually impaired children have the best odds to grow up to be successful and employable adults.

Under a partnership announced June 26, Excellus will provide A.V.R.E. with $90,000 over three years (2012-2014) to help fund the organization’s infants and children’s services programming.

“For the kids that we serve, it really helps us continue to do the work we’ve been doing,” says Richard McCarthy, director of program services at A.V.R.E. The services provided aren’t inexpensive, he notes, and insurance and Medicaid reimbursements typically only cover a portion of the cost of service. The funding from Excellus will help the agency bridge that gap between the cost of service and the reimbursements received and help the program continue, he says. McCarthy did not indicate how much of a gap there was between cost of service and reimbursement.


This early intervention program is key, McCarthy says, to help stimulate learning. For sighted infants, learning is stimulated visually. For example, he says, they are motivated to crawl when they see something out of reach that they want. But that is lacking for visually impaired infants, so they need other forms of stimulation to keep them learning and progressing, he says. That could include things like tactile stimulation.

“That will lead a child to other things,” McCarthy says of the stimulation efforts. The primary goal, he says, is to empower the child and give them the best odds for a successful future that can include schooling and employment.

It’s particularly important that visually impaired people are prepared properly for employment, he says, because the unemployment rate for the visually impaired is about 70 percent. Early intervention gives those people a solid foundation for future success, he says.

Currently, A.V.R.E. provides services to children from birth to about age 6. After that, the children typically receive services through school.

The organization regularly serves about 35 children in its nine-county coverage area. McCarthy estimates there are between 800 and 1,000 children in the area eligible for services, but the program is at capacity at the moment.

A.V.R.E., founded in 1926 as the Broome Association for the Blind, is a nonprofit organization serving people with vision disabilities in Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Otsego, Schuyler, Tioga, and Tompkins counties in New York.

The organization’s mission is to help those with vision disabilities achieve personal and economic independence.

A.V.R.E. ( has 65 employees between its Binghamton plant at 174 Court St. and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) switchboard operations A.V.R.E. staffs at two VA hospitals in the mid-Hudson region. 

About 80 percent of direct labor hours at A.V.R.E. are performed by the visually impaired. They work in manufacturing, contract packaging, and switchboard operations.

The organization connects with several thousand people through its outreach efforts and provides direct rehabilitation services to about 100 individuals.

According to A.V.R.E.’s 2010 Form 990 on file at, the organization posted annual revenue of $3.75 million, including nearly $554,000 in grants and contributions, nearly $485,000 in program revenue, and $2.7 million in net income from its business division which manufactures folders and other office products, provides contract packaging services, and provides switchboard operations. 

The organization’s expenses were $3.32 million. 



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