Peggy Bowles has lived all over the United States: from down south in Florida, to out west in California and up north in Idaho. Yet when she moved to Clinton, she had to master several new languages.
Peggy is the administrator of the Henry County Health Center, and for the last two years, has been guiding it through the gauntlet of raising a new building on Third Street.
“Contractor is a different language,” Peggy said. “Architect is a different language.”
On Oct. 27, Peggy cut the ribbon to open the new building on Third Street, where the health department relocated from offices on the north edge of town. Last week, she was at First Presbyterian Church to speak to the members of Chapter EN, P.E.O., on the job of running a community health center that keeps expanding.
Peggy, who has worked for HCHC for 20 years, started when Sandra Braithwaite, a P.E.O. member, hired her to work for Head Start. For the first five years, Peggy commuted to Clinton from Springfield, she said, where her son was in school. She moved to Clinton in 2014, she said, when her son graduated.
She worked for ten years for WIC, the Women’s, Infants and Children’s program, she said, then stepped up in 2015 when the former administrator, Bonnie Glass, retired.
“When I started, the center was downsizing,” she said. “Now we are growing and adding contractors.”
The HCHC used to rely on medical personnel, Peggy said, but now contracts with professionals to provide services. Free services for Henry County residents range from vaccines and shingle shots to car seats and safe cribs.
Other services have a small fee. Lab tests are available at the HCHC, even for people who have insurance, Peggy said. The HCHC also provides services for people with special health needs.
“We put in four ramps and purchased a lift bed,” Peggy said of recent projects.
Another gap in community health care that the HCHD fills: Once a month, the HCHC visits the Henry County Jail and provides vaccines and health tests, she said.
The health center contracts with the schools to provide life skills and education classes to middle and high school students. The classes, led by Tyler Pulcini, focus on building healthy relationships and has a very high success rate, Peggy said, the goal being to prevent students from dropping out of school.
The HCHC also provides testing for STDs, sexually transmitted diseases, and has baskets of condoms in the lobby, free to take, no questions asked.
As an individual, Peggy joined with others a year and half ago to address the problem of homelessness, she said. The group decided to focus on helping homeless teenagers and work with the schools to find them homes. The group also distributed kits of bath products and food. Clinton does not have a homeless shelter, Peggy said.
“Warrensburg has four,” she said.
The HCHC offers “Family and Friends” classes in CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation). CPR is now “compression only,” --mouth-to-mouth is no longer recommended, although the benefits of adding rescue breaths overrides the risk of Covid infection in some situations. The HCHC also helps church congregations and building owners develop emergency preparedness plans, conducts food inspections at restaurants and motels, and does safety inspections of baby cribs and equipment.
The HCHC held a Healthy Family Expo that drew 200 people, she said. The center also does rabies clinics for pets.
“We vaccinated 22 animals last year, she said.
Peggy, who has a degree from Missouri State University, also speaks fluent spreadsheet. Last year’s HCHC budget was approximately $1.5 million, she said, which comes from four categories: 47% from local taxes, 50% plus from state taxes and the CDC, plus some from small fees and donations.
The new building came in $1,200 under budget, she said.
When Henry Country passed new regulations on pig farming, Peggy said she had to learn a whole new language. As a city girl, Peggy found it slow going wading through the bureaucratic sludge concerning how close pig farms could be located near a town and the mechanics of waste disposal.
Fortunately, she said, when she was about half through the paper work, the state passed regulations on pig farms that superseded the county’s.