Blue Cross pledges over $1M to fund school-based mental health program

PROVIDENCE – Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island has pledged to contribute more than $1 million over the next three years to Rhode Island Student Assistance Services to support its school-based substance use prevention and mental health program called Project SUCCESS.

The funding is meant to address the demand for youth mental health services and boosts financing for an evidence-based program that is now operating in 80 middle and high schools in Rhode Island.

Project SUCCESS, which stands for schools using coordinated community efforts to strengthen students, is a free program that works by embedding a specialty-trained student assistance counselor in each school to provide students with access to services. Counselors are certified and hold master’s degrees in psychology, social work, or a related field. Students can seek the help of a counselor or be referred by a teacher, administrator, parent or classmate.

Access to Project SUCCESS has grown to 53,000 students in 33 school districts since RISAS established the program in 1987.

- Advertisement -

“As Rhode Island’s largest health insurer, we at Blue Cross are committed to doing everything we can now to help address a crisis that is impacting [youths] in communities across our state,” said Blue Cross CEO and President Martha L. Wofford. “Project SUCCESS has a long and impressive track record of working with schools to get teens the help they need early and before their emotional challenges develop into serious mental health problems. The aim of our three-year contribution is to provide reliable, predictable funding for this program to support our schools in effectively responding to the mental health needs of Rhode Island [youths].”

Project SUCCESS is designed for early identification of risk factors related to alcohol and drug use. Counselors provide several services, including training for school personnel, drug and alcohol prevention series for students, confidential assessments, individual and group counseling, and referrals to substance abuse and mental health agencies.

The program is recognized by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and receives grant funding secured by the R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

“School district budgets are stretched and the pandemic aid they received to help fund these services was only temporary,” said Sarah Dinklage, CEO of Rhode Island Student Assistance Services. “A more permanent solution is needed, but in the meantime this large investment from Blue Cross – and spanning several years – will provide predictable funding to RISAS to help schools continue to support services for youth substance use and mental health at a time when the need for these services could not be greater.”

Along with this pledge, Blue Cross has been collaborating with health care providers to expand access to behavioral health services and partnering with community organizations whose services address social factors that affect wellness. Blue Cross has also recently made available in Rhode Island a new parents guide to mental health care called “Finding Help for Kids and Teens.”