Care Plus NJ, a pioneer in integrated primary, mental and behavioral health care services, was poised to open its Paradigm Therapeutic Day School for students who benefit from a more emotionally supportive environment. Care Plus engaged R&J to leverage the opening of school as a vehicle for raising awareness among parents and educators of students with these highly specialized needs and, ultimately, boosting enrollment for the school’s first year of operation. Through a variety of media relations tactics, R&J secured broadcast, print and digital media coverage for the ribbon cutting, resulting in an increase of enrollment in students in the school.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five children and teens aged 13-18 have, or will have, a serious mental illness and 37% of students with a mental health condition age 14 and older, drop out of school—the highest dropout rate of any age group. With this in mind, Care Plus NJ, (“CarePlus”) a pioneer in integrated primary, mental and behavioral health care services for adults and children, developed a School-Based Program of services in which schools throughout Northern New Jersey contract with CarePlus to bring evidence-based curriculum and clinical support to meet the health, wellness, and educational needs of students.
After doubling clinical presence in schools throughout the region, CarePlus recognized the strong need to establish a school dedicated to providing an educational and therapeutic environment designed to inspire and empowers students. Thus, the Paradigm Therapeutic Day School (“Paradigm”) was established to serve students who have been identified by their school districts as benefiting from a more emotionally supportive environment.
Following a rigorous approval and compliance process through the Department of Education, Paradigm officially welcomed 12 students for the first day of the 2018-2019 school year on September 5. The opening of Paradigm marked an important milestone in providing clinical support and evidence-based curriculum to meet the health, wellness, and educational needs of students in northern New Jersey and to celebrate, CarePlus partnered with R&J to orchestrate a grand opening ribbon cutting event. While the event celebrated the more than two-year effort it took to open the school, it was also an opportunity introduce parents, educators, the surrounding communities and the local media to the critical mental health, behavioral health and social support services that Paradigm provides and served as an opportunity to increase the referral of students to the school.
R&J analyzed and identified two audiences; regional school districts and the community at large within Paradigm’s primary service area. With Paradigm looking to increase enrollment in the school, it was essential to reach both administrators and educators, as well as parents in the local community who may not be aware of Paradigm’s presence, capabilities and teaching philosophy.
R&J drafted key messaging for the school surrounding its unique, transdisciplinary student-centered, “EduCare” model and conducted a competitive analysis, highlighting the ways in which Paradigm differed from its competitors.
Using the messaging and competitive analysis, R&J executed a media relations plan to spread awareness of the Paradigm School and their therapeutic approach to education. R&J drafted and distributed tailored media pitches for the event that offered tours of the school, interviews with Paradigm and CarePlus officials and highlighted the necessity of an emotional support model of education.
Additionally, R&J created a digital press kit for the event, complete with headshots, photos, a fact sheet and a press release. Through a variety of media relations tactics and extensive outreach, R&J was able to secure the attendance of both broadcast media and print and digital media for the ribbon cutting. At the event, R&J coordinated tours of the school as well as assisted in providing reporters with interviews with essential leadership.
Finally, R&J utilized the event to capture on camera interviews with key CarePlus and Paradigm executives as well as educators and administrators. The short 30-second vignettes each detail unique aspects of Paradigm to help tell the school’s comprehensive story and can be used variety of ways, including social media campaigns to build continued awareness.
More than 100 people attended the event and event coverage was secured for Paradigm on a state-wide level. R&J secured and coordinated onsite media interviews with leading New Jersey media including The Record, northjersey.com, NJTV, and Fios1 NJ. The most significant outcome was that two weeks after the event, Paradigm’s census went from 12 students to 21 students. This positioned the school to reach its goal of serving 24 students. Paradigm school had two years to reach that number, but they were projected to reach that goal within its first quarter due to the overwhelming success of the event.