Who We Are

Our Mission


Disability Rights Maine (DRM) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and is Maine’s designated Protection & Advocacy agency for people with disabilities. This means we represent people whose rights have been violated or who have been discriminated against based on their disability. We also provide training on rights and self-advocacy and we advocate for public policy reform. DRM believes that people with disabilities must:

  • Be treated with respect and be free from abuse;
  • Control the decisions that affect their lives;
  • Receive the services and supports necessary to live independently;
  • Have the opportunity to work and contribute to society;
  • Have equal access to the same opportunities afforded all other members of society; and
  • Fully participate in all aspects of society: education, work, and community.

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DRM Board of Directors

  • Simonne Maline, President
  • Amy Phalon, Esq., Vice President
  • Andrew R. Sarapas, Esq., Secretary
  • Richard O'Meara, Esq., Treasurer
  • Ashley Eiler
  • Karen Farber
  • April Kerr
  • Eric McVay
  • William Norbert, Esq.
  • Tracy Silverman

Board of Directors Advisory Committee

  • Mary Herman
  • Pat O’Brien, MBA, CAS
  • Howard Reben, Esq.
  • David Webbert, Esq.
  • Jeffrey Neil Young, Esq.

PAIMI Advisory Council

The PAIMI Advisory Council (PAC) advises Disability Rights Maine on priorities and issues important to people who receive mental health services in Maine, and promotes recovery through increased access to client rights and advocacy services.

Download our informational rack card to learn more!

  • April Kerr, Chair
  • Melissa Caswell
  • Korali Day
  • Jefferey Kerr
  • Simonne Maline
  • Jenny McCarthy
  • Vickie McCarty
  • Kate McLinn, PhD
  • Vickie Morgan
  • Gidget Murphy
  • Kelly Staples
  • Miyabi "Abbie" Yamamoto, PhD

DRM Staff

History of the P&A System

"The Protection and Advocacy (P&A) concept was triggered by a series of local television news broadcasts, which Geraldo Rivera did for the ABC News affiliate in New York City. Rivera's investigative reporting exposed abuse, neglect and lack of programming at Willowbrook, a state institution for people with developmental disabilities on Staten Island.

There are eight separate P&A programs all described briefly below, in order chronologically based on when they were created.

  • PADD (Protection and Advocacy for Developmental Disabilities). PADD is the first P&A program, created by the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights (DD) Act of 1975. P&A agencies are required by the Act to pursue legal, administrative and other appropriate remedies to protect and advocates for the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities under all applicable federal and state laws. The DD Act provided for the governor of each state to designate an agency to be the P&A and to assure that the P&A was, and would remain, independent of any service provider. Most entities designated as P&As are private non-profit organizations created specifically for the purpose of conducting the P&A programs. However, some P&As are part of state government, a few are hybrid quasi-public agencies, and a few P&As reside within civil legal services programs. Subsequent P&A statutes, with a single exception (CAP), provide for the new P&A programs to be housed within the same agency designated by the governors under PADD.
  • CAP (Client Assistance Program). CAP was established by the 1984 Amendments to the Rehabilitation (Rehab) Act. Services provided by CAPs include assistance in pursuing administrative, legal and other appropriate remedies to persons receiving or seeking services from state rehabilitation agencies under the Rehab Act. A CAP agency may provide assistance and advocacy with respect to services that are directly related to employment for the client or client applicant. CAP is the only program that does not require the funds to go to the entity designated as the P&A under PADD.
  • PAIMI (Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness). The PAIMI Program was established in 1986. The P&As are mandated to protect and advocate for the rights of people with mental illness and investigate reports of abuse and neglect in facilities that care for or treat individuals with mental illness. The Act was subsequently amended to allow P&As also to serve individuals with mental illness who reside in the community.
  • PAIR (Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights). The PAIR program was established by Congress under an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act in 1993. PAIR programs provide for services to persons with disabilities who are not eligible for services under the three previously established P&A programs (PADD, PAIMI and CAP). With PAIR, the P&As were thus authorized to serve persons with all types of disabilities. Although PAIR is funded at a lower level than PADD and PAIMI, it represents an important component of a comprehensive system to advocate for the rights of all persons with disabilities.
  • PAAT (Protection & Advocacy for Assistive Technology). The PAAT program was created in 1994 when Congress expanded the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act (Tech Act) to include funding for P&As to assist individuals with disabilities in the acquisition, utilization, or maintenance of assistive technology devices or assistive technology services through case management, legal representation and self advocacy training.
  • PABSS (Protection & Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security). The PABSS program was established in 1999 when the Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Improvement Act (TWWIIA) was enacted into law. Under this Act, grants to the P&A programs provide advocacy and other services to assist beneficiaries of Social Security secure or regain gainful employment.
  • PATBI (Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury). The PATBI program was created in 2002 to provide protection and advocacy services to individuals with traumatic brain injury. Although P&As often served such individuals under PAIR, CAP, or PABSS, this grant provides more resources specifically to address the unique needs of this population.
  • PAVA (Protection & Advocacy for Voting Accessibility). The PAVA program was established in 2003 as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). Under this program, P&As have a mandate to help ensure that individuals with disabilities participate in the electoral process through voter education, training of poll officials, registration drives, and polling place accessibility surveys. P&A agencies may not use PAVA program funds for litigation. There is no such restriction in any of the other P&A programs."

(Credit: National Disability Rights Network)

Intern/Extern Program

DRM provides intern/extern opportunities for qualified law school students with an interest in public interest law. If you would like more information about a DRM intern/externship, please contact us advocate@drme.org.

Mikala Bolmer

Intern, Summer 2021

I grew up in southern Maine, and then I traveled around the country and the world a bit before, during, and after college. Along the way, I discovered my love for horses, which led me to working on farms, which led me to teaching about farms and agriculture. Then I found a job posting while on a bad date that connected me into the world of disability services. I have worked at KFI Maine as a Direct Support Professional for more than five years. KFI taught me how to be an advocate for people with disabilities, and I want to continue that work. During my first year at Maine Law, my KFI boss suggested that I intern with her former agency and coworkers at DRM, so here I am, and boy am I happy to be here!

Some of the impactful things I’ve been invited to do during my summer with DRM include researching the use of law enforcement by residential facilities for adults with disabilities; managing several cases gaining experience working directly with clients; and joining the PADD team to give revision suggestions for the updated Person-Centered-Planning Manual for the State.

Amanda Holmes

Extern, Spring 2019

I was able to participate in a Semester in Practice (a 12-credit externship) with DRM during the spring semester of my 3L year. I wanted to extern at DRM to try to broaden my knowledge around the civil rights of individuals with disabilities and to be able to advocate for potential future clients, who have disabilities. DRM serves people with all kinds of disabilities, so I was able to work on a variety of research projects with multiple supervisors. These projects included services for individuals with brain injuries, special education services within adult education, changes to the Probate Code that affect individuals subject to guardianship, and civil involuntary commitments, to name a few.

Additionally, I was able to shadow attorneys outside of the office in a few different locations, including Long Creek Youth Development Center, Riverview Psychiatric Center, and at the Health and Human Services Committee at the Legislature. I spent a significant amount of time observing the civil involuntary commitment hearings at Riverview Psychiatric Center, and I learned a great deal from those observations. Specifically, how DRM can support attorneys appointed to patients to ensure that the patient's rights are not being violated by the process, this includes ensuring access to effective counsel and access to an outside evaluator as required by statute.

Externing at DRM was the perfect way to finish my law school education. The experiences I had here really took what I learned in the classroom and put them to practical use. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing organization, and I really appreciate how inclusive everyone was.

Amanda operates her own practice, Law Office of Amanda Holmes, in Augusta.

Amber Miller

Extern, Summer 2018

I was fortunate to participate in a three-credit externship at Disability Rights Maine following my second year of law school. I chose DRM because, as a former Special Education teacher and foster parent, I have always wanted to learn legal strategies to protect and advocate for persons with disabilities, particularly youth with disabilities.

During my time at DRM, I worked on a wide variety of projects and cases. Under the supervision of DRM attorneys, I prepared for an administrative hearing for adults with disabilities seeking additional services that would allow the clients to remain in the least restrictive and most appropriate living environment. I assisted attorneys in researching the rights of student athletes under the Americans with Disabilities Act. I conducted research on filing state-wide systemic complaints and continued the ongoing research for DRM’s report, “Assessing the Use of Law Enforcement by Youth Residential Service Providers.”

During my externship at DRM, I learned about the recent change in legislation requiring courts to consider less-restrictive alternatives, such as Supportive Decision-Making, when assessing guardianship petitions for adults with disabilities. I worked with supervising attorneys to create and deliver a presentation for state-wide school administrators regarding the importance and implementation of Supported Decision-Making when educating youth with disabilities.

DRM also provided opportunities to observe legal advocacy in the community. I attended involuntary commitment hearings at Riverview Psychiatric Hospital and observed the work that the DRM attorneys were doing to protect patient rights. I attended site visits at Spring Harbor Hospital, where the DRM attorneys met with youth with disabilities to ensure that the youth’s legal rights were protected during their stay at the hospital.

DRM provided a supportive and collaborative learning environment. I was fortunate to work with several supervisors, each taking the time to offer guidance and broaden my understanding of the law. The attorneys at DRM work on a large breadth of issues that create positive change for people with disabilities, giving interns and externs the opportunity to learn multiple facets of disability-related law. It is rewarding to feel as though you are contributing to systemic change for underrepresented populations. DRM provided the perfect setting to learn practical skills and was an instrumental part of my legal education.

Amber is an attorney at Chester & Vestal, P.A. in Portland.

Lydia Merrick

Intern, Summer 2018

I was born in Massachusetts, but I grew up in Maine, and have lived here most of my life. At a young age, I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and was homeschooled from the third grade up until I went off to college.

I'm a proud 2019 graduate of the College of the Atlantic! While in college, I took an internship with DRME. My job was to research and collect useful information on the web. I also created illustrations and graphics, such as some I did for a voter's guide.


Bridget Yahoodik

Intern, Summer 2017

I interned at DRM from May until early August full-time. I largely spent my time at DRM researching, attending meetings, shadowing lawyers outside of the office, and working on a couple of cases with the supervision of a lawyer. More specifically, I helped in researching and writing for DRM’s recent report, “Assessing the Use of Law Enforcement by Youth Residential Service Providers.” I also was assigned as a primary advocate to a case under the supervision of Peter Rice, and it was a rewarding experience to work on a case open to close. The case concerned the accessibility of a pharmacy, and I made phone calls, sent out letters, and researched. Additionally, I shadowed lawyers outside of the office with some of the sites being: Penobscot County Jail, Long Creek Youth Development Center, Spring Harbor Hospital, and Riverview Psychiatric Center. I learned a lot from this experience, but one thing that truly surprised me was the Federal Access Authority DRM staff has on site at places like Long Creek. I also learned that P&A groups, such as DRM, encompass a multitude of different areas of law, and have many different resources. I also feel as if I grew as a legal researcher and writer with the help of the staff.

I chose to spend my summer after 1L year at DRM because I always had an interest in disability law, as I have a sibling with a developmental disability and I formerly interned at the Department of Developmental Services in Massachusetts, a department within the Department of Health and Human Services. DRM has a great reputation at Maine Law for internship/externship placement, and my legal writing TA (Foxfire Buck) told me about the great experience she had there. DRM came to the law school in January to interview me. Also, the Maine Association for Public Interest Law (MAPIL) fellowship I was awarded provided me with a stipend. I’m happy it ended up being a great fit!

Bridget is currently a staff attorney at Legal Services for the Elderly.

Samantha (Conway) Tibbetts

Intern, Summer 2016

My experience at Disability Rights Maine as a student attorney was amazing. I have always been passionate about public interest law so I knew that DRM would be a perfect fit for me. As a student attorney I was able to take on my own cases, while being supervised and guided along the way. I worked with many different attorneys in their respective specialties and gained knowledge in areas of law I otherwise would not have been able to. I was also very grateful to be able to work for Disability Rights Maine with a public interest law fellowship, which allowed me to earn a living while doing the work I love. Everyone at the office was so thrilled to share their experiences and knowledge with me throughout the summer. I left DRM having gained both new skills and incredibly supportive mentors.

Samantha currently works at Treworgy and Baldacci, in Lewiston.

Volunteer Opportunities

DRM is looking for qualified members for our Board of Directors and our Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Advisory Council (PAIMI Council). If you are interested in volunteering in any of these capacities, please contact Kim Moody at DRM.

Job Postings

Project Director

Posted on November 17, 2022

Closes:

Job Location: Augusta or Falmouth; flexibility for remote options

Disability Rights Maine, a progressive non-profit organization whose mission is to advance justice and equality by enforcing rights and expanding opportunities for people with disabilities in Maine, has an opening for a Project Director.

Position Summary:
DRM is seeking a detail-oriented individual with strong communication and organizational skills to support a three-year grant funded project to systematically address sexual violence against people with developmental disabilities in Maine, including prevention and response across multiple disciplines.

The Project Director will be responsible for the planning, development and implementation phases of this project, working in collaboration with members of a multidisciplinary team that includes: Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Speaking Up for Us and the Maine Association of Community Service Providers.

The project’s first year goal is to assess the needs and barriers across the system and within each organization at the intersection of disability and sexual violence, which will inform the development a strategic plan. Activities include: becoming a policy expert at the intersection of disability and sexual violence; representing DRM and our clients in appropriate forums; participating in current coalitions and cohorts working to end sexual violence; and helping to bring the disability perspective into the sexual violence prevention and response conversation in Maine.

This position requires an individual with a passion for improving Maine’s work to prevent and respond to sexual violence disproportionately experienced by people with developmental disabilities. The ideal candidate will have an awareness of and sensitivity to issues of sexual violence and disability, and the ability to work collaboratively with a diverse team across multiple disciplines.

Responsibilities:

  • Planning, development and day-to-day management of the project;
  • Serve as lead agency contact and coordinator for the multidisciplinary team;
  • Coordinate the needs assessment process to develop project priorities, goals, and objectives in collaboration with the multidisciplinary team;
  • Work cooperatively with DRM staff and programs to coordinate and strategize activities;
  • Plan and execute project meetings and discussions;
  • Draft and edit reports, policy briefs, blog posts, or other informational tools; and
  • Establish and maintain meaningful relationships with the project’s multidisciplinary team and other community partners to further programmatic goals.

Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree or other relevant life experience
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills, both oral and written
  • Self-motivated and able to work independently and collaboratively
  • A commitment to economic and social justice.

Compensation:
Salary range: $50,000 – 60, 000, depending on relevant experience. This position is grant funded and subject to continued funding by grantors.

To apply, send a cover letter and a resume to careers@drme.org. This position will remain open until filled

DRM is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to age, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or protected veteran status. Persons from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, and persons with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply.