The Regional Intervention Program, or RIP, was started in 1969 by Dr. John Ora at the Kennedy Center of Peabody College (now part of Vanderbilt University). It was initially designed to help parents of children on the autism spectrum learn positive behavior management strategies to employ with their children. Within a couple of years, it was recognized that the RIP strategies and techniques could be beneficial to all parents experiencing challenging behaviors from young children, with or without diagnosis or developmental concerns, and enrollment was opened to all interested parents. As the program’s reputation grew, it gained increasing support from State legislators, which led to a push to replicate the Nashville RIP Model across the State.
In 1971, the RIP Advisory Committee, Inc. was established to advise on program activities, expansion possibilities, and to provide funds to RIP. This collaboration between the State of Tennessee, the Junior League of Nashville, and the Kennedy Center of Peabody College was crucial in establishing RIP’s longevity. In 1972, RIP was transferred to the (now) Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS), which assumed full responsibility for program funding and management, and operated out of a location on White Avenue. In 1974, the RIP Expansion Project began in an effort to provide training and technical assistance to agencies wanting to replicate the RIP model, and to establish a RIP program in their local community. The Advisory Committee began development of the project through identification of locations and development of a training program for Expansion Sites. The initial six project sites in Tennessee (funded by the Advisory Committee from 1974 to 1976), and sites in Ohio, and Connecticut were set up and operated by local sponsoring agencies and certified by the Advisory Committee. In 1974, in response to a request from the Tennessee Legislature, the TDMHSAS established a goal to place a RIP Expansion Project in every major population area of the state. A key factor in the push for this goal was the publication of an economic analysis of RIP which showed a 4-10% benefit-cost ratio for fiscal return only (it did not factor in non-fiscal benefits such as benefits to families and society at large).
From 1976 on, the RIP Expansion sites were funded by the TDMHSAS. Also in 1976, the RIP Nashville program operations and funding shifted to the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute, and the RIP Expansion Project remained with the Division of Mental Health Services. In 1985, the Department began an effort to expand services for children and youth in the State, and funding of additional RIP Expansion Sites began. In 1995, the RIP Nashville program moved from the White Avenue site to Belmont Boulevard, where it remained until 2020. In 2009, RIP Nashville returned to the Division of Mental Health Services in the Department for operation and licensure. In March 2020, RIP Nashville moved into a brand-new, state-of-the-art, building on the Campus of Ellington Agricultural Center at 5020 Darlington Drive. This new facility marks the first purpose-built property for RIP in its 50+ year history.
Currently, there are RIP programs in eleven communities across Tennessee: Johnson City, Kingsport, Knoxville, Clarksville, Cleveland, Columbia, Franklin, Murfreesboro, Memphis, Gallatin, and the Nashville Headquarters, which serves as the training site for all RIP locations.
The RIP Expansion Project continues to disseminate RIP information outside of Tennessee. Expansion Project staff assist agencies in other states to replicate the program by providing staff training and limited technical assistance. Successful programs outside of Tennessee are currently operating in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and San Diego, California, with a number of other states actively interested in establishing RIP model programs.