Congressional Hill Visits Successfully Educate Policy Makers In April, NH-ME LEND trainees and faculty traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the Disability Policy Seminar. This annual seminar brings together passionate advocates, including people with disabilities, experts, and professionals in the field, to learn about key issues and advance the grassroots movement for people with Intellectual and developmental disabilities. Trainees had the opportunity to learn about and discuss key issues with people from across the country, as well as visit Capitol Hill to present their policy briefs and educate congressional delegates about the importance of the reauthorization of the Autism CARES Act (The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act). First passed in 2006, it provides a coordinated response and increased investments across the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to address the rising numbers of children and adults being diagnosed with autism.

Visiting Capitol Hill is a culminating and often pivotal experience for LEND trainees from across the country. Three well prepared teams from NH-ME LEND visited Maine and New Hampshire congressional offices. One group was thrilled to meet with Congressman Chris Pappas in person.

  • A group of 10 professionally dressed people pose happily in front of the door and plaque for Representative Chris Pappas' office.

    After a successful visit, a group of NH LEND trainees posed for a picture with NH State Representative Chris Pappas outside his office.

  • A diverse group of about 25 people happily and excitedly pose together with the sign for the Hart Senate Building Visitor and Staff entrance. They're outside on a sunny day in Washington, DC.

    NH-ME LEND trainees, ready to visit the offices of Senator Hassan (NH), Senator Shaheen (NH), Senator Collins (ME), and Senator King (ME) on the 2024 LEND Hill visits.

  • A group of 10 professionally dressed women pose happily in front of the door and plaque for NH Representative Ann McLane Kuster's office.

    After a successful visit, a group of NH LEND trainees posed for a picture with Legislative Staffer Tara Jordan, outside of NH Representative Ann McLane Kuster’s office.

  • A group of happy excited people pose for a selfie in front of the US Capitol Building on a sunny day.

    New Hampshire LEND trainees and Training Director Stacy Driscoll celebrate their successful visit with legislators outside of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C.

From the Trainees

“Now that I have learned about policy more through my experience with LEND, I can better see the broader perspectives influencing policy decisions and advocacy.... I feel like I am better able to see differing perspectives and understand how to advocate based on those differences so that we can find common ground to have our interests reflected in policy decisions.

- Klarissa Wankel

“Advocating for this act was a realization of the power of advocacy and how it can lead to tangible improvements in the everyday lives of people with disabilities. Witnessing decision-makers taking our words seriously and showing a commitment to addressing the needs of citizens further reinforced my belief in the importance of advocacy and active participation in shaping policies that benefit everyone.”

- Fozia Robleh

“Going forward, I will try to meet with my representative and senator.... take the time to get to know what drives them in this work and what matters most to them when they are in the session. Sharing my own concerns, and learning about theirs, will be a steppingstone toward building long-term relationships.”

- Cynthia Cushing

“At the end of the day, engagement is necessary to enact any change. Without engagement, our state representatives will be making blind decisions, or taking input just from lobbyists and other party members, instead of focusing on impacts regionally or by state. These representatives want to hear from their constituents; they want input. It truly is our job to provide the input. Our voices do matter.

- Shannon Laine

Congratulations to the 2024 NH-ME LEND Cohort on a job well done!