MADISON, Wis. – A local community leader is working to help hundreds of black men live longer, healthier lives with a new healthcare option.
Founder of the Perry Family Free Clinic, Aaron Perry, has plans to open his new facility to give uninsured and underinsured black men access to free primary care.
“We believe healthcare is a right, regardless of your ability to pay,” Perry said. “You should be entitled to this and we want to provide that.”
The clinic is a lifelong dream of Perry’s, building on the work he has been doing since 2016 in barbershops in the area.hop like JP Hair Designs, which housed one of Perry’s three Men’s Health Education Centers.
“It was a great feeling to have men of color come in and know they have a place where they feel comfortable,” said owner Jeff Patterson.
According to Perry, those efforts enabled them to provide 5,900 preventive screenings to black men in Dane County over five years.
He also said those centers allowed him to interview men in the community to get better understanding of the challenges they face going to the doctor, and what he consistently found was a sense of discomfort.
“The feeling that they weren’t wanted, you know, they sat down, people got up and walked out, they didn’t want to sit in the lobby with them,” he explained. “So sometimes it all started there, before they even came back to see their doctor.”
Perry wanted to give those men a place they could trust, but as a former police officer, he had no medical background. He did have the desire to make a difference and partners who were willing to help.
SSM Health provided its clinic with most of the equipment, and Edgewood College has partnered with Perry for years to provide nursing students to staff its health centers.
Students like Rachel Carmack are excited to put into practice the lessons she learned in school.
“We talk so much about culture and race, and you know, community disparities, and it seems like this is a really great place where we’re trying to combat some of those issues,” Carmack said.
For his part, Perry continues the lessons his parents left behind to uplift the community by building a legacy he knows they would value.
“He really listened,” he said with a laugh. “That’s what I think they would say, he really listened.”
The clinic is scheduled for a soft opening next week and will officially open on February 24. For starters, it will run every Thursday from 1pm to 5pm, with room for expansion as need and funding allow.
To date, the Perry Family Free Clinic has been funded by private donors and grants from the State Department of Health Services. They expect to receive more funding in the next 2 to 3 weeks.
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