Project Profile

MCHB Program: Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Other Related Disabilities (LEND)
Institution: University of Minnesota
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Region: 5
Project Director:

Amy Hewitt
Institute On Community Integration
Phone: 612-625-1098


Goals and objectives:

Minnesota LEND Program (MNLEND) at the University of Minnesota (UMN) will improve the health and well-being of children, adolescents, and young adults who have, or are at risk of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other neurodevelopmental and other related disabilities (DD), by expanding interdisciplinary training opportunities for graduate-level and community trainees from 14+ disciplines. With a diverse and highly respected faculty and hybrid curriculum, MNLEND will: 1) prepare professional and community trainees who can provide comprehensive health, education, advocacy, clinical and translational research skills to children and youth with ASD/DD in an interdisciplinary manner, 2) increase the number of trained providers available to diagnose and treat those with complex ASD/DD, 3) provide opportunities for trainees to learn in partnership with and be taught by people with lived experience of ASD/DD, 4) enhance the clinical expertise and leadership skills of practicing professionals and families dedicated to caring for children, youth and young adults with ASD/DD and 5) ensure that all trainees understand the life course. MNLEND produces a cadre of diverse regional and national Maternal and Child Health (MCH) leaders in ASD/DD and has an established 12- year training program consistent with the MCH goals, Healthy People 2030, and Autism Cares Act (ACA 2019).

Minnesota's political/social landscape has changed dramatically in the past five years. MN is undergoing significant change in demographics, health equity and disability services. While MN has a long history of disability policy innovations and progressive services, trends highlight the changing needs and growing gaps, disproportionate access and equity issues. Within MN there is a strong need for coordinated, interdisciplinary outreach in early developmental screening, particularly in racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse and underserved rural communities. This MNLEND proposal puts forward strategies to address these many gaps. Since 2008, MNLEND has delivered a comprehensive interdisciplinary training program focused on culturally responsive and evidence- based assessment, evaluation, intervention and policy. MNLEND has trained 24,791 short-term (STT), 1,259 medium term (MTT), and 265 long-term trainees (LTT) . Consistently, over 50% of trainees are from diverse racial, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds and 59% have lived experience with ASD/DD and/or are family members. MNLEND brings together highly qualified diverse faculty (including people with ASD/DD and family members, and MN MCH partners), to prepare trainees to assume leadership roles and ensure high levels of interdisciplinary clinical and community competence in ASD/DD. MNLEND collaborates with diverse communities, health professionals, MN Departments of Health, Education, Human Services, and Employment and Economic Development, including MCHB funded programs that focus on promoting the health of MCH populations.

This proposal provides a strong argument for the need and capacity of the MNLEND continuation by 1) sharing past performance and outcomes, 2) identifying needs, and 3) identifying new and needed goals and objectives to expand geographic reach, maintain high recruitment standards, build new strategic pipeline programs. Ultimately, the program focus is on training 29-32 LTT, 150+ MTT and 300+ STT each year and ensuring that at least 50%+ are from diverse academic, geographic, racial, ethnic, linguistic and disability backgrounds. The UMN is proud of the progress and outcomes achieved by MNLEND and has shown strong support by committing $864,480 in matching/cost share resources to the 2021-2026 program and providing a new building that will unite researchers and clinics focused on ASD/DD and provide new opportunities for MNLEND fellows, including a new telehealth labs and teaching facilities.