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BWRSD Expands Access to Mental Health Services for Students With Innovative Telehealth Partnership With Cartwheel
  • Students can see a Rhode Island-licensed therapist within 1 week of referral from their school counselor or social worker
  • The District is seeing strong interest from students and families in the partnership with mental health provider Cartwheel, with 20 students referred in just the first few weeks
  • Services are available via telehealth, allowing for convenient after-school and evening availability, plus access to care in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and other languages 
  • Can address a range of common mental health needs such as anxiety, depression, loss and grief, school avoidance, sleep issues, technology use, and trauma
  • Services are free for students insured by Rhode Island Medicaid and the uninsured and are an in-network benefit for students with private insurance
  • The school-community partnership reflects Bristol Warren Regional School District’s commitment to mental health, which is critical to student success in the classroom

Bristol Warren Regional School District announced a new partnership with community mental health provider Cartwheel to bring students and families rapid access to mental health care via telehealth with Rhode Island-licensed clinicians.

"Student mental health needs have gone up significantly over the past few years in our community, and finding timely support for our students has been an ongoing challenge,” said Ana Riley, Superintendent of Schools for the Bristol Warren Regional School District. “Our new partnership with Cartwheel is empowering families to get the care they need for their children without waitlists.”

The partnership comes as youth mental health reaches a breaking point in Rhode Island. One in four Rhode Island children has a mental health condition, and many have trouble getting treatment. Between 2019 and 2021, calls to the state’s behavioral health hotline for teens doubled. Data from 2020 shows that 467 teens ages 13 to 17 were admitted to the emergency department following a suicide attempt, with 334 hospitalized.

In 2022, the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Rhode Island Council for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, and Bradley Hospital declared a state of emergency in pediatric mental health, calling to “increase implementation and sustainable funding of effective models of school-based mental health care.”

Bristol Warren’s collaboration with Cartwheel gives its more than 2,900 students across grades K-12 access to mental health support when they need it. The program can help address a range of common mental health conditions, from anxiety, depression, and executive functioning challenges, to loss and grief, stress, sleep issues, technology use, trauma, and more.

The District hopes that Cartwheel’s services will help address record rates of chronic absenteeism. “Because of our telehealth model, we can match students to clinicians who specialize in each student’s mental health need. For example, we have clinicians who specialize in helping students manage anxiety around attending school, which when left untreated can lead to school refusal, school avoidance, and chronic absenteeism,” said Dr. Juliana Chen, Chief Medical Officer at Cartwheel and child-adolescent psychiatrist.

The program works as follows:

  1. Interested students or families can reach out to their school counselor or social worker to see if Cartwheel could be a good fit.  
  2. Once the school staff member submits a referral, Cartwheel contacts the family within two days to schedule a one-hour virtual intake assessment with a licensed therapist. 
  3. After the first session, students can join ongoing weekly therapy sessions for up to 6 months. Sessions are held via a secure telehealth platform during the day as well as evenings, weekends, school breaks, and through the summer. 
  4. If requested by the student and family, Cartwheel’s team of psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners can also support medication evaluation and management. 
  5. For students who need more than 6 months of care, Cartwheel team of bilingual case managers assists families with referrals for longer-term services.

Since Cartwheel accepts all major Rhode Island insurance plans, services are free for families insured by Medicaid and are an in-network benefit to students with private insurance.

As part of the program, school staff and families also receive wraparound support to ensure students are appropriately supported throughout treatment. A clinically licensed Program Manager consults with school staff on student cases, family engagement, and staff professional development.

Parents and caregivers are also encouraged to participate in care and can work with their Cartwheel clinician to determine how best to do so. For students who are too young to join telehealth sessions, their parents can meet one-on-one with a Cartwheel therapist for guidance on how best to support their child.

Due to a new collaboration announced last week between Cartwheel and Bradley Hospital, Bristol Warren students who require a higher level of care can also be referred to Bradley Hospital’s REACH Virtual Partial Hospitalization Program.

“Since January, we’ve referred 20 students across the district, and I’ve heard positive feedback from our school counselors and social workers about the turnaround times and quality of care provided,” said Lisa Colwell, Director of Pupil Personnel Services for Bristol Warren Regional School District.