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Horace “Rock” Topeck Jr., The Suite Spot Barbershop
Horace “Rock” Topeck Jr., The Suite Spot Barbershop

Life Changing Is ... Looking Good and Feeling Good

Horace “Rock” Topeck Jr., The Suite Spot Barbershop

“It makes me feel good to make someone else feel good.”

The sense of community is evident inside The Suite Spot Barbershop in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood.

From the friendly banter about local sports teams to neighborhood friends stopping by, there's a welcoming atmosphere.

But, like many barbershops, The Suite Spot represents more than just a place where someone comes to look good. It’s where they go to feel good, too.

People often share personal stories by confiding in someone they trust, like their barber.

“You don't think about some of the things that you have to take on,” says Horace "Rock" Topeck Jr., owner and barber at The Suite Spot.

The relationship between barbers and customers is a trusted one. In recognition of that, UPMC Health Plan created the community-based Health Access Initiative for Recovery (HAIR).

UPMC Health Plan launched HAIR in May 2023, during Mental Health Awareness Month. HAIR trains barbers and stylists in Black communities how to talk to customers about substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention.

“As far as helping people and getting the message out there, it's really good to have a program that's now being presented to help people," Horace says.

HAIR seemed like a perfect fit for Horace, who became owner of The Suite Spot in 2023.

“We've already been a staple of the community,” he says. “We offer different types of programs where people can get blood pressure screenings and prostate cancer checks. So, this program fits right into helping the community and people with another resource for mental health."

The HAIR initiative aims to improve health in minority communities. Goals include increasing meaningful outreach, supporting education and engagement, and reducing health disparities.

Barbers and stylists are often viewed as trusted members of their community. HAIR gives them a valuable tool to use as mental health advocates.

“People share their stories and their life moments with us, and we never had a resource to give them for help,” Horace says. “With this program, it actually gives them more resources to find the help that they need for their situation.”

The program isn't just reaching adults. Horace says it is also helping youths who might not have anyone else to talk to.

"It's good for the young people because it provides a safe space for them to open up,” he says. “Because some of them don't talk to their parents, and they don't have a resource to talk to.”

HAIR allows barbers and stylists to provide both a safe space and the resources to help their clients. It's a partnership that Horace finds rewarding.

“It makes me feel good to make someone else feel good,” he says.

At UPMC, Life Changing Medicine means not just looking good, but feeling good as well.

Pittsburgh (KDKA): Group of Pittsburgh barbers want clients to look and feel good.

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