Who is STARS Nashville and what should we know about you?
STARS is completely awesome! Established in 1984, STARS helps young people pursue their unlimited potential by providing hope, health, connection, and compassion anchored in prevention, intervention, treatment, and training. We serve over 100,000 children and youth annually across 11 different school districts in Middle Tennessee through our school-based, mental health counseling services. We provide intensive outpatient treatment services for adolescents struggling with substance misuse and co-occurring mental health disorders. And, our community outreach initiatives include Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists (ROPS), LifeLines, and Nashville Thrives, a local coalition dedicated to ensuring every Nashvillian can improve, achieve, and sustain health and well-being by advocating, facilitating, and creating community-driven policies, systems, resources, and services.

What has been the most valuable aspect of your Chamber membership?
Some of our most valued board members have come to us through the Chamber, most specifically Rita McDonald, Chief Growth Officer at the Chamber. She is the board member of a lifetime. Along with board service, our membership has opened doors for us to meet with some of the most influential thought-leaders in our community. This membership has proven to be invaluable to our advocacy and awareness efforts.

Can you share a significant lesson you have learned as a business leader?
At the start of every meeting, STARS reflects on the grounding philosophy of our founder, Mr. Ed Rodgers, Jr.: “1) Know What We Offer, 2) Go Where We Are Wanted, 3) Do a Great Job, and 4) Let People Know What We Are Doing Without Compromising Numbers 1, 2 and 3.” These four simple steps have been the most significant lesson informing all business decisions.

How do you manage and maintain a positive company culture?
Absolutely! We have the intentionality to create a positive, clean line of communication with offsite staff and onsite staff. We take time to celebrate our successes as an agency and balance support and encouragement when challenges are presented. STARS has won the TopWorplace distinction for 12 consecutive years based on staff survey data. In fact, STARS was inducted into the TopWorkplace Hall of Fame and has won special awards in the areas of leadership, direction, and meaningfulness.

Are there new markets or demographics you are targeting?
We are focused on growing telehealth support in rural communities to provide access to mental health services.

What is unique about your business that makes you stand out?
As an embedded partner in the schools and juvenile court system, STARS ensures that social determinants are not an obstacle for any student/family to participate in activities or receive services. Services are available to any student, regardless of income, insurance status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, exceptionality, or religion. Services are free to students and their families, overcoming any financial barriers, and services are provided on-site at school during school hours, overcoming the barrier of transportation. School-based delivery of mental health counseling services resolves the concerns associated with access and equity (e.g., barriers including cost, transportation, stigma, system capacity, etc.). By virtue of their day-in, day-out exposure to children, STARS counselors and therapists are available to discern students’ risks, identify early problems and link or refer students to appropriate school- and community-based prevention and intervention services. Offering services at schools facilitates access, especially for underserved and difficult-to-reach populations.

How do you stay informed about industry trends and changes?
STARS is engaged at national and local levels and at universities. STARS has a significant presence locally with thought leaders through our leadership on the SEL Conference planning committee, Nashville Children & Youth Collective, Alignment Nashville, Leadership Nashville, and membership in many different local chambers in Middle Tennessee. We partner with the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) and recently took over the management of the International Bullying Prevention Association (IBPA).

What’s the biggest goal for your business in 2024?
Replacing Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to sustain and maintain services.

How do you stay involved in the community?
STARS offers school-based mental health counseling services in urban, suburban, and rural communities to provide equitable access to care. Our continuum of school-based services address the social and emotional needs of students facing such issues as trauma, violence, PTSD, substance misuse, depression, grief and loss, and bullying. Our school-based mental health services and intensive outpatient treatment services are accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF); and our substance misuse and co-occurring mental health disorder services are licensed by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Our work is anchored in a restorative approach to provide trauma informed care by helping school communities and school staff separate the “deed from the doer” when harm occurs.

What differentiates your business from your competition?
STARS does not bill for service, and our long history in Middle Tennessee assures we are a trusted and valued partner in the communities we serve.