‘Healthcare is a right:’ Free clinic for uninsured black men set to open this month

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 provide uninsured and underinsured black men with access to free primary care.

“We believe that healthcare is a right regardless of your ability to pay,” said Perry. “You should have a right to this and we want to provide that.”

The Clinic is a lifelong dream of Perry’s, which builds on the work he’s been doing in area barber shops since 2016 — shops like JP Hair Designs, which housed one of Perry’s three Men’s Health Education Centers. 

“It’s been a great feeling to have men of color come in and know they got a place to go where they feel comfortable,” said owner Jeff Patterson.

According to Perry, through those efforts they were able to provide 5,900 preventative screenings to black men in Dane County in a five-year span.

He also said those centers allowed him to survey men in the community to get a better understanding of the challenges they face getting to the doctor, and what he found consistently was a feeling of discomfort.

“Feeling like they were not wanted, you know, they would go to sit down, people would get up and walk away, they didn’t want to sit with them in the lobby,” he explained. “So it all sometimes started right there, before they even got back to see their doctor.”

Perry wanted to provide those men with a place they could trust, but as a former police officer, he didn’t have any background in health. He did, however, have a desire to make a difference and partners who were willing to help.

SSM Health provided his clinic with most of their equipment, and Edgewood College has been partnering with Perry for years to supply nursing students to staff his health centers.

Students like Rachel Carmack are excited to put the lessons she learned in school into practice.

“We talk so much about culture and race, and you know, inequalities amongst the community, and it seems like this is a really amazing place where we’re trying to combat some of those issues,” Carmack said.

For his part, Perry is moving forward with the lessons left behind by his parents to uplift the community building a legacy he knows they would appreciate.

“He actually listened,” he said with a laugh. “That’s what I think they would say, he actually listened.”

The clinic is scheduled for a soft opening next week and will officially open on Feb. 24th. To start, it will run from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m every Thursday with room for expansion as need and funding allow.

So far the Perry Family Free Clinic has been funded by private donors and grants from the State Department of Health Services. They anticipate receiving more funding in the next 2 to 3 weeks.