A five-year, $2.2 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) was given to The University of New England (UNE), in collaboration with the Maine Behavioral Healthcare (MBH) and the Maine Medical Center (MMC), to create Maine’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program.
LEND will provide training for physicians and other health professionals, and for students, in a number of disciplines — developmental pediatrics, occupational therapy, social work, psychology, early childhood education, health management and policy, and speech language pathology — to identify and improve the care of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities (ND), such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and cerebral palsy.
Additionally, the program will work with state schools to provide support for these children, as well as their families.
The curriculum includes coursework and hands-on experiences with faculty, families, community partners, and legislators to develop skills to address the needs of their children and their families, and to help trainees move into leadership roles in their communities. The program also provides trainees with the skills to better understand public policy, and offers them the opportunity to take part in clinical training at hospital and community-based clinical settings across the state.
Trainees will be supervised by a faculty member at three clinical training locations — UNE, MBH, and MMC— and have contact to providers from the Maine Developmental Disability Council, Maine General’s Edwin Ervin Pediatric Center, Maine Area Health Education Center, and Northeast Hearing and Speech, the Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies at the University of Maine, among others.
The Maine LEND Project director will be UNE faculty Eileen Ricci, and Kathryn Loukas will serve as the program Training Coordinator.
Referring to the project, Dr. Ricci said in a news release, “With this new partnership between UNE, Maine Behavioral Healthcare and Maine Medical Center, Maine joins 37 other states in providing LEND programs that bring holistic attention to the needs of children with autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.” She addd, “This grant positions UNE to be a leader in preparing specialists to promote best practice integration of children with neurodevelopmental disorders into the school system and the workplace, and to effectively diagnose and treat these children.”
“Maine Medical Center looks forward to this collaboration that will provide a medical home in Maine for children with cerebral palsy,” said Alexa Craig, MD, of Maine Medical Partners- Pediatric Neurology, a department of MMC. “This is a tremendous opportunity for us to teach LEND trainees how to provide the highest quality of care for these children and their families.”
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