Peoples Drug Stores Inc. Yesterday opened its first Home Health Care Center at 3535 South Jefferson St. in the Bailey's Crossroads Shopping Center to the praise of local government officials and medical professional agencies.

Officaiating at a morning ribbon-cutting ceremony was Jack Herrity, Fairfax County executive director and Peoples Group Vice President Richard A. Schuman. About 100 other local citizens, business leaders and health care specialists attended.

"This is a logical step forward for our company to provide residents of the greater Washington area with the personalized and economical one-stop service they want and need," Schuman said. "We will provide quality goods and quality services to the consumer."

The 5,000-square-foot facility is the first in the area to be operated by a drug store chain and offers such items as wheelchairs and hospital beds, portable oxygen kits, blood pressure machines, whirlpool baths and other items associated with health care. The center is manned by trained professionals who can assist customers in fitting orthopedic garments and appliances and are trained in the use of home health care equipment.

The drug store chain plans to open a second home health care center in suburban Maryland "within the next 12 months," according to Schuman.