Patients file in throughout the day, many seeking a routine check-up or sports physical, others complaining of the typical symptoms you might expect in a doctor's office: sore throats, ear infection, asthma, migraine headaches. What you wouldn't expect from this health clinic is its location. Converted from two neighboring classrooms, this office is inside Manual High School; the patients are its student body.

Patients file in throughout the day, many seeking a routine check-up or sports physical, others complaining of the typical symptoms you might expect in a doctor's office: sore throats, ear infection, asthma, migraine headaches.


What you wouldn't expect from this health clinic is its location. Converted from two neighboring classrooms, this office is inside Manual High School; the patients are its student body.


Just two months into new digs at the South Peoria high school, Methodist Medical Center officials say the In-School Health Clinic is averaging 20 or more patients daily.


Stacy DeJaynes, director of Methodist's in-school clinic programs, said the purpose is to serve students who otherwise would not receive health care.


"A lot of students were identified as having barriers to receiving health care, whether it be transportation or they simply have no primary care provider - in this area, if you miss three appointments, they typically kick you out," DeJaynes said, "so students weren't necessarily getting health care they needed."


Methodist operates 29 in-school sites including 10 in Peoria and others located in Pekin and Morton and the surrounding areas. The clinic at Manual, though, is the first in a high school.


Amy Davis, the nurse practitioner at Manual, said some students have no one to confide in when it comes to things they are experiencing with their bodies, and sometimes ignore important symptoms.


"We're filling a gap, building a relationship," Davis said. "We're able to do a lot of education, more individual care, more follow-up care than what you'd typically be able to get in a doctor's office because the students are right there, kind of a captive audience. I love my job. I feel like I'm making a difference."


Davis said in the two months their doors have been open, students have learned they are pregnant or have a sexually transmitted infection.


"Some students are already living adult's lives - they're already parents, they're emancipated, so they're responsible for their own care," DeJaynes said. "We're hoping to educate students, that they learn how to maneuver the health care system and adopt seeking health care as part of their lifestyle."


The more health education, students may more likely adopt healthier lifestyles, avoid unnecessary emergency room visits through preventative health care and make going to the doctor a regular part of their life.


Methodist has invested some $300,000 in the facility at Manual. Many of the clinics like the one at Manual have three staff members - a nurse practitioner, a social worker and office assistant.


Officials said they plan to eventually open the clinic to the community, but no date has been set. The office, while housed inside the school, can be separated through locking doors allowing students access to the clinic but keeping others from entering the school.


But not all of the care is medical related.


Marcello Robinson, a social worker at Manual, knows first-hand the importance of the role he plays in the school.


Robinson, a former point guard for the Bradley University men's basketball team, said he grew up in a home in Kankakee with no role model, no one to turn to and a parent addicted to drugs.


"A lot of kids just need someone they can trust," said Robinson, who sometimes also does home visits. "It takes a team effort."


Dave Haney can be reached at (309) 686-3181 or dhaney@pjstar.com.