The seeds for the current Perry Wellness Center were first sown in 1999, when the Tom Perry Peer Center was established. Named after Stuart Perry's father, the program was the first free-standing peer center in the state of Georgia. Under the auspices of the Peer Centers of Georgia, the program operated through funding and oversight by the national MHA and local Middle Flint Behavioral HealthCare. Stuart Perry was instrumental in the planning and development of the Tom Perry Peer Center, but did not become involved in its day to day leadership until 2007, because of his national advocacy efforts.
In 2007, the program was re-established as the Perry Wellness Center, with an increased focus on wellness activities and a holistic approach to peer services. Formed as a 501(c)3, the center now operates under the governance of its Executive Board. The Perry Wellness Center functions as a peer-founded, peer-run center for individuals with mental illness and/or addictive diseases.
After over a decade of transitions, the program now occupies a large campus in the heart of Americus, Georgia's historic Rees Park area. The program is growing daily -- in enrollment, activities, and facilities, at its several-acre complex. When the center re-opened its doors as the Perry Wellness Center in 2007, a total of five consumers were enrolled for services. Today, 54 peers attend the program, with services provided by 15 employees and consultants.
Mental health programs throughout the United States have drawn on the advocacy and training efforts of the center and its founder, but the center is proudest of its impact on local communities. In 2009, the Perry Wellness Center was named the Peer Program of the Year in its home state by the Georgia Mental Health Consumers Network. It has also received a Community Enhancement Award for its efforts in Americus and Sumter County.