CCIDS Goes to White House to Highlight Impact of Federal Initiatives on Maine’s Disability Community

Two people, a woman and a man, standing in the White House complex next to an indoor American flag, with the White House shield above their heads.
Kim Moody (executive director of Disability Rights Maine) and Alan Cobo-Lewis (CCIDS).

On March 14, 2024, Alan Cobo-Lewis, associate professor of psychology and director of the Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies (CCIDS), Maine’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities or UCEDD, was invited to attend Communities in Action: Building a Better Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, in person at the White House complex. This meeting brought together federal figures with over three dozen local elected officials and community leaders working on behalf of their communities to create opportunities and improve people’s everyday lives. Discussions highlighted federal initiatives, especially those funded by the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA), Inflation Reduction Act, and Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Attendees on behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration included Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff; Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra; Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough; and Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox, deputy directors of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Additional federal attendees included U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-VT). Attendees from Maine included Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline and Lewiston teacher Evelyn Atwood, whose remarks, like Dr Cobo-Lewis’s, touched on a multilingual, multi-licensed, childcare model that received technical assistance from CCIDS as part of a collaboration with the Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network at University of Southern Maine Cutler Institute (funded by a Maine DHHS Office of Child and Family Services contract to USM) to promote entrepreneurship and meet the needs for culturally appropriate childcare by developing multiple licensed early care and education businesses under one roof.

Meeting participant's view of HHS Secretary Becerra addressing the meeting from a podium.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra addressing the Communities in Action meeting.

Dr. Cobo-Lewis also discussed with Secretary Becerra a CCIDS project funded by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services Office of Aging and Disability Services through the National Disability Institute using ARPA funding to pilot enhanced behavioral consultation to teams supporting adults with disabilities to reduce challenging behaviors, reduce intrusive interventions that violate human rights, increase functional communication, and increase inclusion in the broader community, including one’s chosen faith community. Additional topics of discussion included the workforce crisis, immigration as a solution to the crisis, health care inequities for people with disabilities and transgender people, gun violence, and how social security benefits are structured in a way that denies marriage equality to many people with disabilities.

Dr. Cobo-Lewis publicly thanked Secretary McDonough for the recent collaboration between the VA Maine Healthcare System and UMaine Department of Psychology and Institute of Medicine whereby a jointly funded faculty position in clinical psychology was filled that meets clinical needs while advancing the evidence base in substance use, co-occurring disorders, and cannabis use risks, behaviors, and consequences within LGBTQ+ populations.

Group photo of 37 adults, men and women, standing outside on the front steps of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC.

Image credits:
UCEDD Directors photo courtesy of Jesse Suter
Group photo courtesy of White House staff.
All other photos courtesy of Alan Cobo-Lewis