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story.lead_photo.caption Patrica Henderson, administrator for the Jacksonville Health Unit, stands in one of the remodeled examination rooms, part of a $600,000 expansion that includes a new waiting area for patients. - Photo by Mark Buffalo

— The residents of Jacksonville now have a better, more modern facility to help meet their health needs.

The Jacksonville Health Unit, an office of the Arkansas Department of Health, recently underwent a renovation that added 1,800 square feet to the unit’s existing location at 3000 N. First St. The highlight of the project was an expanded waiting area for patients.

“[The project] also remodeled the existing portions of the facility,” said Don Adams, ADH center director for local public health. “It’s approximately a 50 percent increase in total size of our local health unit. Obviously, we’ll be able to process more patients and meet the needs of the community.”

The $600,000 project started in March and was completed in September. A ribbon cutting took place for the facility Oct. 22.

Patricia Henderson is the Jacksonville Health Unit administrator.

“We were working with a smaller unit,” said Henderson, who has been the administrator at Jacksonville for the past 12 years. “I’ve worked for three or four years to get enough money to do the renovation, to increase the size of the waiting area for our clients. That waiting room was really a focus for our clients.”

During the construction, Henderson said, the clinic scheduled only about 15 people per day.

“I think everything flowed well,” she said. “It was hectic at times. We were still offering limited serves to our clients while the renovations were going on.

“I think it was pretty successful. It took a lot of maneuvering to flow people in and keep them safe from one entry area while they waited for another area to become available.”

The project was funded by several sources, Adams said.

“We were needing additional space to meet the demands,” he said. “It’s something that has been in the planning phase for a while. We had several partners on this expansion.”

Adams said Pulaski County owns the building and pays for the utilities and upkeep of the building.

“That’s an arrangement we have with many of the counties around the state,” Adams said. “They are a very important partner in providing local health services.”

Adams also said the city of Jacksonville and the U.S. Department of Agriculture WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program contributed to the project.

“Here at the health department, we have the Local Grant Trust Fund,” he said. “That also contributed to the funding.”

Henderson said the department received full funding in August 2016.

“We held out a little while because we needed more money,” she said. “It took roughly about seven months to get [the project] completed. Myself, the contractor and the architect met weekly every Thursday to make sure that we were all on the same page, and everybody was happy with the progress.”

Noacon Inc. of Fairfield Bay was the contractor, and Brandon Ruhl of Taggart Architects was the architect for the project.

Now that the project is complete, the Jacksonville Health Unit schedules between 51 and 60 people per day.

“That’s not including the walk-ins for WIC voucher pickup, flu shots or any other emergency cases that may be produced during that day,” Henderson said.

Services that the Jacksonville Health Unit provides include the WIC program; testing for and treatment of sexually transmitted infections; reproductive health services; and flu shots and other immunizations.

“We also take care of all our communicable diseases, such as hepatitis A and chicken pox,” Henderson said. “Those are discovered in a hospital, and we track them.”

The Jacksonville Health Unit also provides birth and death certificates.

“People can come into this local health unit and fill out a request for a birth or death certificate, as long as they have been filed. For a birth certificate, you have to prove that you are related to that person, the same for the death certificate, although we provide death certificates to the funeral homes as well.”

Henderson has worked for the health department since 1997. She started there after her husband, Dwight, retired from the Air Force.

“We moved around a little bit,” she said. “We’re both from Arkansas. When we returned to Arkansas, my first job here was at the health department.”

Patricia Henderson is a 1983 graduate of Little Rock Parkview High School. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in interdisciplinary studies from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. She said the focus of her degree is health communications and preparedness.

Adams said Henderson was instrumental in getting the expansion of the Jacksonville Health Unit off the ground.

“She’s got a heart for the community and her patients there,” Adams said. “This will allow her to better serve that community.”

Henderson said she loves what she does.

“I like the clients who come in. … I like the people that I work with,” she said. “I want to keep a relaxed atmosphere for people to work and to come in and get their services. I don’t want them to feel like that we’re neglecting them. It’s important to me that we provide excellent customer service, that we’re meeting the needs of our clients and that when there is a service we don’t provide, that we have a resource to provide for our clients.”

Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or mbuffalo@arkansasonline.com.

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