Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Partners with NH-ME LEND

February 26, 2021

Karen Hopkins Courtesy of Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins, Executive Director of Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

NH- ME LEND is pleased to announce a new partnership with the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MECDHH), initiated by the newly appointed Executive Director, Karen Hopkins. MECDHH is Maine’s appointed state deaf and hard of hearing education agency. They provide high-quality, state-of-the-art services to over 500 children and youth, their families, and learning communities with a goal of building an inclusive environment for linguistic, social, academic, and personal success for the deaf and hard of hearing throughout the state.  

Karen Hopkins, the first deaf woman to lead the organization, brings over 25 years of experience as a teacher of the deaf, special educator, early interventionist, and administrator.  Karen’s passion for her work comes from her own experiences growing up in rural Maine as the only deaf child in her family and in her school.  

Karen was excited to talk to Spotlight about the launch of their latest project, Earliest Interactions, funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  Earliest Interactions is a holistic program which supports families of children who are deaf and hard of hearing throughout their journeys, from screening, to diagnosis, to early intervention and beyond. Karen reports there are a lot of changes happening to increase the education of families, providers, and the community.  “The hope is that when providers have a baby that is deaf, they will connect the family to our newly launched website which has a common focus and will provide families the same information across providers. Often families are only being given a medical view of deafness, instead of a cultural and family-based view. On the website, they will be able to see options and opportunities available to them and learn about the research on deafness in a condensed, concise way.”  

An additional goal of Earliest Interactions is to increase community collaboration and education. In her role as a consultant for the Maine Newborn Hearing program, MECDHH educational audiologist, Katherine Duncan has taken a leadership role to energize the state’s pediatric audiology workgroup and guide them to identify projects and continuing education opportunities that will ultimately support their patients and families. Presently, the group is developing information sheets to prepare families for audiological testing, identify risk factors for developing hearing loss, and provide information on hearing technologies. Guest speakers are being invited to present on relevant pediatric topics.  

The Earliest Interactions project is presently wrapping up a comprehensive needs assessment of families and providers to learn more about ways that people generally seek testing and services, access community resources, and identify service gaps with a goal of meeting healthcare provider and community needs. Katherine reports that early data analysis shows the assessment had excellent engagement with midwives across the state. “This is important because the vast majority of children who do not get screened are born at home and do not have access to screening. Midwives have been super engaged and actively asking for information about the equipment they need to do the screening or where to send their families. This is important as we are hoping to see an increase in screening.”   

NH-Maine LEND trainee, Rosie Hoffman, who has been working on the Early Interaction’s needs assessment as part of her leadership placement. She has attended stakeholder meetings, helped to edit focus group questions, and compiled identified areas of strength and areas in need of improvement. “Watching MECDHH staff navigate meetings with a range of stakeholders has been a master class in interdisciplinary teamwork.”   

Earliest Interactions's Logo

NH-ME LEND trainee, Tracey Miller who had the opportunity to learn about MECDHH more broadly notes, "Through my leadership placement with MECDHH, I learned about the array of supports and resources this organization provides to children who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families. I was impressed not only by the breadth of MECDHH's programming but also by the passion and dedication of their staff. We in Maine who work with children with disabilities are fortunate to have such wonderful collaborators."