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Medica Corporate Communications

Mental Health in the Black Community: Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association outreach to Black Men makes the Cut

Part of an ongoing series examining the populations who face unique challenges to their mental health and how Medica is funding programs to impact those challenges to care.

Funds from Dean Health Plan, now part of Medica, help support Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association, which provides daily preventative screenings, health education, and quality healthcare to uninsured and under-insured Black men in Dane County, Wisconsin, and all who are impacted by disparities in healthcare.

In 2005, founder Aaron Perry became the world's first insulin-dependent African American to complete the Ironman Triathlon. After successfully managing his diabetes through exercise, Perry became a strong community health advocate for other Black men who were at a loss when facing health issues that are both preventable and treatable and thought he could make a difference.

To combat distrust of the health care system within the Black community, he identified a location that is considered a sacred space where Black men trust, respect, and feel safe. In 2016, Perry opened the nation's first Men's Health Education Center (MHEC) inside Madison's largest Black barbershop.

Since opening its doors, the center has served over 7,000 Black men, connecting them to health education services that address their health conditions, and providing them access to healthy lifestyle groups like Black Men Run, Black Men Walk, and Black Men Cycle. It also aims to build the next generation of healthy Black men through bi-annual Father/Son wellness events and Black Men Run/Brown Boys Read literacy events during the summer.

After being named one of TIME magazine's 50 Most Influential People in Healthcare, Perry began to expand his advocacy, and in February 2022, he launched the Perry Family Free Clinic (PFFC), located next to the barbershop-based MHEC. The clinic provides access to health care for uninsured and under-insured barbershop clientele, offering primary care, diabetic foot care, physical therapy, and mental health services. One-on-one counseling sessions are offered at every patient appointment and provided by a trained Black therapist on staff. Perry is very encouraged by the 60 Black male patients served in the first full year of operation, and his community engagement staff look forward to expanding the number of patients served in 2023 and beyond.

Medica believes support for community-based nonprofits like Perry's organization is a building block for a healthier community.