Scott County closes clinic; expands other health services

Friday, October 15, 2004

Business Today

BENTON -- The board of directors of the Scott County Health Department has decided to close its Benton facility and establish monthly outreach clinics in Benton, Chaffee, Oran and Scott City. The department's administrative headquarters and only non-mobile facility will be in Sikeston.

At this time, however, there is no permanent date set for these changes.

"This is just a plan that's getting off the ground," department administrator Barry Cook said. "We have no firm date, this is just the direction that the board decided we needed to go."

The board's decision to close the Benton facility is primarily due to the facility's lack of clients, Cook said.

On an average day the Benton facility, which is open Tuesdays and Thursdays, has 15 clients, while the Sikeston facility sees about 40 clients a day and is open five days a week.

"It all goes back to the relatively low number of people who use the Benton facility," Cook said.

There are also problems with the building that houses the Benton facility. At over 50 years old, it is in need of extensive and costly repairs.

"We're looking at it from an economic standpoint as well," Cook said of the department changes. He said it was not really feasible to keep the facility open considering the costs of upkeep on the building and the cost of staffing, especially in relation to the number of clients the facility received.

According to Cook, the majority of the department's clients only use its services one to four times a year. For clients living in or near Benton, Chaffee, Oran and Scott City, the outreach clinics will mean more local access to the department's services on a monthly basis. There will be a clinic every week within the northern part of the county, which is not that far from the Benton facility.

"We feel that for the average person using our facilities, the outreach clinics will work as well if not better," Cook said.

The outreach clinics will be held in community churches and at civic organizations' buildings, although the department has yet to meet with any organizations to discuss arrangements.

Currently, the department has an outreach program at the First Assembly of God church in Scott City once a month, although it only deals with childhood immunizations and the Women, Infants and Children federally funded program.

While that particular program will continue, the new outreach program in Scott City and other towns in the northern part of the county will feature everything that would be at a non-mobile clinic, such as health screenings, family planning, flu shots and lead testing for blood.

"We're going to have everything mobile," Cook said

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