Sarah Dinklage, Rhode Island Student Assistance Services/Coastline EAP founding director and CEO

CONTINUED GROWTH: Sarah Dinklage, Rhode Island Student Assistance Services/Coastline EAP’s founding director and CEO, has grown the organization from a seven-school pilot program to serving more than 55,000 students in 80 middle and high schools. 
PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
CONTINUED GROWTH: Sarah Dinklage, Rhode Island Student Assistance Services/Coastline EAP’s founding director and CEO, has grown the organization from a seven-school pilot program to serving more than 55,000 students in 80 middle and high schools. 
PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY

PBN Leaders & Achievers 2023
Sarah Dinklage
Rhode Island Student Assistance Services/Coastline EAP
Founding director and CEO


BRINGING OUT THE BEST in people both at work and within the community is what drives Sarah Dinklage on a daily basis.

Dinklage, founding director and CEO of Warwick-based Rhode Island Student Assistance Services/Coastline EAP, emphasizes collaboration within the organization. Her perception of teamwork among others is derived from a certain 1960s British sensation.

“We’re like the Beatles; everyone on the team plays a unique role,” Dinklage said. “I build trust with the team and foster a culture where people are comfortable sharing their challenges.”

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Dinklage grew the school-based substance use prevention/early intervention program from a seven-school pilot in 1987 to one that serves more than 55,000 students in 80 middle and high schools today. In 1988, RISAS and Coastline EAP merged into one company, providing school- and community-based programs across Rhode Island, and employee assistance programs to more than 200 companies nationwide.

A colleague said Dinklage has the ability to “bring out the best in people.” Of her leadership style, Dinklage says she instills confidence and empowers her team members to become influential leaders in their own right.

“I try to lead with compassion and love … and I don’t underestimate the importance of humor,” Dinklage said. “I work to find joy every day in the midst of the struggles and worries.”

A recipient of multiple recognitions, Dinklage gains deep satisfaction from seeing how RISAS has helped tens of thousands of young people achieve their potential, even in the face of challenging situations.

“Research has shown that schools with student assistance counselors have lower rates of alcohol, vaping and [marijuana] use; and lower depression symptoms and suicidal ideation than schools without [student assistance counselors],” she said. Dinklage also credits that success with top-notch staff members who possess the ability to connect and engage with kids.

“My ‘superpower’ is hiring,” Dinklage said. “I always open new employee orientation with prospective employees with that comment.”

Looking toward the future, Dinklage aims to sustain the growth the company has achieved, continue to diversify funding sources and prepare the next generation of leaders.

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