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Tim Jones, Salon Blue Owner and Stylist
Tim Jones, Salon Blue Owner and Stylist

Life Changing Is ... Connecting the Community

Tim Jones, Salon Blue Owner and Stylist

“We've been doing this work for years, so it needs to have a spotlight.”

When stylist Tim Jones first heard about the Health Access Initiative for Recovery (HAIR) from a client, he wanted to learn more.

One phone call later with program manager Lori Weems, Tim was sold.

“I told her it was a no-brainer for me,” says Tim, owner of Salon Blue in Swissvale, Pa.

UPMC Health Plan launched the community-based HAIR program in May 2023 to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Month. The program trains barbers and stylists in Black communities how to talk to clients about substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention.

HAIR aims to improve health in minority communities. It seeks to increase meaningful outreach, support education and engagement, and reduce health disparities.

Tim thought HAIR’s goals aligned perfectly with what he'd already been doing. Over the past 20 years, he’s compiled his own resources for clients in need, including a Rolodex full of doctors, nurses, and therapists.

“Any time someone would come in, whether they were dealing with child issues or homeless issues or just needed someone to talk to, I would scroll through, and I would find the card,” he says.

Tim already knew many of the barbers and stylists who joined him in HAIR’s first class. He says learning how to detect mental health issues and recognize the signs has been a game-changer in helping clients.

“You build relationships with these individuals, so you do start to pick up on different things and nuances about them,” he says. “But seeing things like, ‘I think this may be something, but I’m not really sure,’ this program helped bridge that gap and understand it.”

Tim equates it to being able to look at the bigger picture. He experienced an example firsthand with a new client just after finishing his training.

Because of his training, Tim says he knew to have the woman call a crisis helpline and get connected to the proper help.

“I held her hand through the whole process,” he recalls. “She began to explain to (the counselor) what she was dealing with and how this was stressing her out. She really just needed someone to talk to."

Tim says the crisis center found several additional resources to help the woman.

“Having this program, having that hotline number, gave me another tool in my Rolodex to offer,” he says.

Tim says he hopes to see the HAIR program receive national recognition for its life-changing impact.

“More people need to understand and see what is actually being done right here in this barbershop, salons, and beauty salons,” he says. “We've been doing this work for years, so it needs to have a spotlight.”

At UPMC, Life Changing Medicine means caring for our communities and connecting them to the resources they need.

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

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