News from the NH-ME LEND Program

News and updates from the New Hampshire-Maine Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (NH-ME LEND) Program.

2023-2024 University of Maine NH-ME LEND Trainees (September 2023)

The University of Maine welcomed seven trainees for the 2023-2024 NH-ME LEND program year:

Aicha Abdillahi Ali (Special Education); Cynthia Cushing (Social Work); Elizabeth Deliso (Special Education); Kasey McBlais (Family Member); Fozia Ahmed Robleh (Social and Behavioral Sciences); Katherine Russum (Psychology); and Rachel Williams (Early Childhood Education).

NH-ME LEND Alumni News

Two alumnae, Tracey Miller and Ivory Mills,  joined the Maine faculty of the NH-ME LEND Program. Miller is the Disabilities/Mental Health Manager for Southern Kennebec Child Development Corporation, a Head Start agency in Central Maine. Mills is an early childhood educator with a mental health background and currently works for Maine’s Children’s Trust in Augusta, Maine.

2019 alumna Crystal Chron was honored by the Maine Children’s Alliance with a 2023 Giraffe Award which recognize community heroes who “stick out their necks” for Maine children, youth, and families. Giraffe Award winners are individuals, organizations, and businesses who go above and beyond, demonstrating leadership in making Maine a better place to live, work, and raise a family.

AUCD Conference Presentations (November 2023)

Michelle Fong ’23 presented her peer-reviewed poster, Mind the gap! Advancing data equity to improve population health equity for people with disabilities. At the 2023 Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) Annual Conference, Washington, DC.

Spring Kick Off: Organizing to Influence State Policy (January 26, 2024)

In late January, the NH-ME LEND Program hosted a panel discussion and keynote speaker as part of their virtual Spring Kick Off Event, Organizing to Influence Your State’s Policy. The six panelists represented a variety of perspectives on policymaking:

  • Connor Archer, Self-Advocate and Founder/CEO of Courageous Steps Project, Maine
  • Audrey Bartholomew, Training Director, Maine LEND
  • Bonnie Dunham, Parent Advocate, NH
  • Atlee Reilly, Legal Director, Disability Rights Maine
  • Peggy Rotundo, State Senator (D-Androscoggin), Maine
  • Sarah Trites, Self-Advocate, Maine

Dr. Alan Cobo-Lewis served as the panel moderator.

The panel discussion and subsequent keynote by Ansley Peacock, were designed to help prepare NH and ME trainees to participate in the annual Disability Policy Seminar (DPS) in Washington, DC on April 8-10, 2024. Peacock is Transition Initiatives Coordinator for New Hampshire Family Voices and Parent Information Center of NH where she facilitates the YEAH Council (Youth for Education, Advocacy, and Healthcare).

New Hampshire-Maine ECHO SCOPE (February – April 2024)

This free eight-week series, using a tele-practice model known as Extension for Community Health Outcomes or ECHO® connected community providers in NH and ME with specialists at local centers of excellence in real-time, case-based learning and mentorship. The weekly sessions increased health providers’ knowledge of strategies, skills, and resources for supporting the complex needs of children with substance exposure in utero and their families. Providers also built a community of practice with other professionals across disciplines.

Disability Policy Seminar and Policy Brief (April 2024)

The Disability Policy Seminar is a three-day federal legislative conference co-sponsored by seven national disability organizations and provides LEND trainees with the opportunity to network, learn about disability policy, and meet with their congressional delegations. Interdisciplinary Training Co-Director Susan Russell and the seven UMaine trainees participated in four Capitol Hill visits with the following Hill staff to discuss the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support (CARES) Act of 2024.

  • Gabe Coffey, Legislative Correspondent for Representative Jared Golden (D)
  • Jonathan Happen, Legislative Assistant for Senator Angus S. King, Jr (I)
  • Evan Johnston, Legislative Director for Representative Chellie Pingree (D)
  • Maria Olson, Legislative Assistant for Senator Susan M. Collins (R)

The trainees included copies of their cohort’s policy brief, The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act in the information packets for the legislators.

Annual Capstone Poster Session (May 3, 2024)

On May 3, 2024, NH-ME LEND held its Annual Capstone Poster Session at the University of New Hampshire. Trainees participate in leadership placements with community-based organizations whose missions are aligned with the mission of the LEND program. The poster session highlights each trainee’s capstone project and reflects how the project supported their growth as leaders.

Regional LEND Spring Conference (May 13, 2024)

This half-day virtual conference, Bridging Gaps: Fostering Collaboration in Mental Health Care for ASD and IDD through Interdisciplinary Engagement, focused on the need for collaboration in mental health care for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). Recognizing the complex and multifaceted nature of these conditions, the conference brought together professionals from diverse disciplines, individuals with lived experience, and family members to explore innovative and different approaches to care.

Sponsored by the NH-ME LEND Program, BANDS (Behavioral and Neurodevelopmental Services) at Dartmouth Health, and the Northeast Regional LEND Consortium.