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— Shortly before 8 a.m. Monday, as members of the Benton County Health Department gathered outside of the new satellite office here for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a woman walked up and asked the group about scheduling an appointment.

When she left, the woman had an appointment scheduled for Monday afternoon and could finally stop driving to Springdale or Bentonville to get to the closest public health clinic.

"I am most excited about being able to get services back up and running full scale on the western side of the county," said Loy Bailey, county health director. "Public health is one of the cornerstones of any community."

Residents of Siloam Springs and neighboring towns have been without a county Health Department office since February 2007.

The services have been missed, said Phyllis Thurman, a retired nurse whoworked for the Health Department in Siloam Springs off and on for 20 years. "For this community, (the new Health Department clinic) is a wonder."

Since her retirement, Thurman has volunteered at local agencies and has seen firsthand the need for a local Health Department unit.

"I have seen people in the last two to three years that needed to come in and could not because they could not drive to Bentonville," Thurman said.

Staff members at the new clinic "are going to see a tremendous amount of people coming in. The need has been there all along; it just has not been addressed," Thurman said.

With the new clinic, at 101 W. University in Siloam Springs, the need for a permanent Health Department office on the western side of Benton County has been met, Thurman said.

Anyone wishing to schedule an appointment at the Health Department clinic in Siloam Springs may do so by calling 549-3794. The clinic offers immunizations and Women, Infants and Children services.

News, Pages 8 on 09/23/2009

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