Since 1987, RISAS has implemented Project SUCCESS (Schools Using Coordinated Community Efforts to Strengthen Students) in RI middle and high schools.

As of August 2021, Project SUCCESS is in 31 RI middle schools and 39 high schools, representing 33 school districts. In the fall of 2021, 52,000 Rhode Island middle and high school students will have access to a student assistance counselor in their school.

Project SUCCESS is recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as an effective evidence-based program to prevent and reduce substance use among youth ages 12 to 18.

Project SUCCESS works by embedding a specially trained master’s degree level student assistance counselor in each school to provide students with easy access to services. This approach allows for early identification and intervention for alcohol and other drug use-related risk factors, such as drinking at an early age, poor academic performance, tardiness, absenteeism and other behavior problems.

The Student Assistance Counselor is a valued member of our school community. Their care, compassion, and advocacy is treasured by our students and their families.
- Scott Barr, Principal, Providence

Analyses of the 2020-2021 Rhode Island Student Survey compared students in schools with Project SUCCESS and students in schools without and found…

Parents, school administrators, teachers, and community members find Project SUCCESS a highly effective model for addressing alcohol and other drug use that can negatively impact adolescents’ academic success and well-being.

How Project SUCCESS Works

Project SUCCESS services, which are delivered in school by RISAS student assistance counselors, include:

  • Prevention Education Series (PES) is a six- to eight-session alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and other drug program typically delivered in seventh and ninth grade.
  • Confidential Assessment for alcohol and other drug use and other behavioral health problems that interfere with school performance, attendance, and behavior.
  • Individual and Group Counseling are time-limited sessions designed to prevent or reduce substance use and foster resilience in youth living with a parent or caretaker with a substance use disorder.
  • Referrals to Substance Abuse and/or Mental Health Treatment Agencies when appropriate and case management and follow-up services.
  • School-Wide Awareness Activities for students, school personnel, and families about substance use and mental health and where to go for help.
  • Parent Programs are conducted in person and online and may include, but are not limited to: education and information at parent orientations/open houses, webinars for parents, community forums, and newsletters.
  • Onsite and Virtual Consultation and Professional Development for school personnel to increase identification, prevention, and early intervention strategies for adolescent and pre-teen substance users and students at risk for substance abuse.

Project SUCCESS Frequently Asked Questions

What qualifications do student assistance counselors have?

All of our student assistance counselors have a Master’s degree in social work, psychology, counseling, or other related area. They have experience counseling adolescents and are very familiar with evidence-based prevention strategies and how to motivate and intervene with teens who are using substances.

How are students referred to a student assistance counselor?

Self and peer referrals account for more than half of our referrals. Students can also be referred by school administrators, guidance counselors, teachers, school nurses, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and family members. Anyone can refer a student to a student assistance counselor.

Do student assistance counselors only see students who are using substances?

No. Student assistance counselors identify and help youth exhibiting risk factors before alcohol and other drug use begin. Risk factors include, but are not limited to, trauma, depression, anxiety, poor school performance and family violence. This early identification and intervention approach has proven effective in delaying the initial use of alcohol and other drugs and reducing associated school and life problems.

Is there help in school for teens who are living with a family member or caretaker with a substance use disorder (SUD)?

Yes! Research shows that one out of five youth grow up with a parent or caretaker with SUD. These children are more likely than the general population to develop SUD. Student Assistance Counselors work to foster resilience in teens through confidential short-term individual and group counseling and support groups.

Is treatment for students available?

RISAS does not provide alcohol and other drug treatment services. Our counselors conduct assessments and provide brief individual and group interventions and, when needed, referrals to effective and appropriate treatment professionals and programs.

Are student assistance services confidential?

We maintain strict adherence to state and federal laws concerning the confidentiality of federally assisted alcohol and drug use services. The exception is when there is a threat of harm to self or others; in these situations, mandatory reporting laws apply.

Do students need to have health insurance to see a student assistance counselor? Is there a fee for these services?

Students do not need health insurance to see a student assistance counselor nor is there a fee to families. Project SUCCESS is funded by the state’s Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH), school districts, and grant funding from a variety of sources.

What if I do not want my student to see a student assistance counselor?

Before the start of the school year, principals send parents and caregivers of students in grades 6 to 12 a letter that describes Project SUCCESS and provides the name and credentials of the student assistance counselor in the student’s school. The letter gives parents and caregivers the option to notify the principal if they do not want their student to be seen by the counselor. The vast majority of parents do not take this option, understanding that the middle and high school years can be challenging and wanting their child to have access to another supportive, caring adult in the school.

RISAS is a Recovery Friendly Workplace and an equal opportunity employer.