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New Perry Family Free Dental Clinic opens with focus on addressing disparities in dental care for Black men

Aaron Perry

Aaron Perry recently celebrated the beginning of a national book tour and on Dec. 7, had even more to celebrate with the opening of the Perry Family Free Dental Clinic. The new clinic, located inside the Boys and Girls Club at 4619 Jenewein Rd in Fitchburg, will look to serve the same purpose of the other Perry Family Clinics that look to provide preventative care while also addressing disparities in healthcare access.

Perry recalled at the opening of the new dental clinic how SSM Health played an important role in establishing what would come to be the first clinic dedicated to closing gaps in health and wellness, especially for Black men.    

“We were very fortunate to have SSM Health,” Perry said. “When they were closing their old clinic and they decided they were going to build a new one, we knew right away that a lot of the medical beds and cabinetry were going to end up in a landfill somewhere. I reached out to them and said we’re going to create an SSM Health medical facility, only we’re going to call it the Perry Family Free Clinic, and it’ll be free and we’ll take all of those old things out of your clinic. They blessed us with that and told us to come and get everything you need. If you go into our free clinic, next to the barbershop, we put all of that stuff that would have been thrown away to good use.”

Aaron Perry cuts the ribbon at the Perry Family Free Dental Clinic.
(Photo by Isaac Trussoni)

Perry also thanks AmeriCorps for the workers who have been of great service to the efforts of beginning the new clinic. Joseph Roy was present as he will be supporting the new expansion into dental and has worked with Perry for a while as the director of the Perry Family Free Clinic, as was Erica Olsen who will be one of the dental hygienists at the clinic and has worked with Perry as well to close gaps in dental care with uninsured or underinsured people. 

“It’s virtually impossible to have controlled diabetes if you have uncontrolled periodontal disease,” Olsen explained. “It’s chronic inflammation in the mouth, so anytime you are fighting any sort of chronic inflammation, it increases your risk for stroke, heart attack, and all the things. That’s really our goal in practice is to educate our patients to have a healthy mouth so they can have an overall healthier life.”

Perry celebrated the work they have done so far reaching 7,400 Black men over the last six years for preventative care and health screenings. Efforts to educate and influence healthy change will also continue through a collaboration with FoodWIse, a UW Extension organization that educates about eating healthy and health-focused practices, as well as Perry’s own plans around utilizing Boys and Girls Club gym space for continued opportunities for activity over the winter.   

Perry Family Free Dental Clinic
(Photo by Isaac Trussoni)

Perry was also sure to express gratitude to the Wisconsin Partnership Program for their part in securing the grants that made the dental clinic efforts possible. People who played a role in making the clinic possible from the Wisconsin Partnership Program, Executive Director Amy Kind, Program Officer Kattia Jiminez, and Administrative Director Megan Miller were there in support.

“Would we have gotten here without their support?” said Perry. “I’m not sure. We received a $300,000 community collaboration grant that got us started, and then we were awarded the community impact grant. That really put us over the top, and once we received that, we said that this community will not look the same in five years. I think we’re on pace for that. It gives me great pleasure that now we have medical, behavioral health, and we rounded out with dental care.”

Perry was happy to announce that they would be seeing patients immediately over the weekend as they already had a father and his children lined up, and was positive that great things were to come.