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

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.

White woman with red hair wearing a blue blouse. She is standing in front of a wall of bookshelves.

Monica Cooper, Fall 2022

I had the privilege to work as a full time extern (semester in practice) for my last semester of law school at Vermont Law and Graduate School. I chose to temporarily relocate to Maine because I wanted to work in person with DRM’s staff. At the start of my externship I worked out of the Augusta office. I worked out of the Falmouth office for the remainder of my semester in practice. The staff at both offices are warm and welcoming. I really loved the Falmouth office because it is located on Mackworth Island and I enjoyed taking a walk during lunch.

My knowledge of disability law expanded exponentially during my time at DRM. Before DRM, I worked at the New Hampshire Disability Right Center were I focused on physical accessibility and accommodations under Title II and III of the ADA, voting rights, administrative appeals for developmental disability services, and public policy.

My experience at DRM was very hands on. My supervising attorney went out of their way to make sure I could achieve my learning goals for the semester. For example, one of my goals was to develop client relation skills. I developed these skills through representing clients under the supervision of other attorneys. I got to work with many of DRM’s teams such as, the Deaf Services Team, the Kids Team, the Special Education Team, the Access Team, and the Legislation Team. In addition to representing clients, I also drafted research memorandums and a letter on video relay services for Deaf and hard of hearing inmates. I also attended IEP Team meetings, mediation, and monitoring at Long Creek Youth Detention Center, Spring Harbor Psychiatric Hospital, and NFI North Bath.

Throughout my experience at DRM, I always felt like a member of the DRM team, rather than just a law student. DRM staff welcomed any and all questions I had, both about the law, and personal experiences with disability rights. The energy at DRM is indescribable, everyone is genuinely passionate about advancing disability rights and justice. I cannot understate the impact that my experience at DRM has had on my knowledge of disability law and skills as a future attorney. Because of my experience, I feel confident to begin my career as an aspiring disability rights attorney.

Photo of Meredith Harrell who is a white woman with short blonde hair. She is wearing a brown scarf and a black shirt.

Meredith Harrell

Extern, 2021

I was fortunate to be an extern with Disability Rights Maine during both semesters of my last year at law school. The work I did at DRM as a student attorney was a complement to my background in social work. My externships allowed me to vastly expand my understanding of the practical and legal challenges that individuals with disabilities face. At DRM, I focused on issues of accommodations and physical access.

In my time at DRM, I was able to form strong relationships with clients and see many of the cases through to their resolution. Personally, this was gratifying. Professionally, my practice will be enriched by my experience of intense work with vulnerable clients.

Because of the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked with clients remotely and attended trainings and meetings via Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Despite the physical distance, I felt like an important part of the team from my first days at DRM. My mentor, Peter Rice, gave me rigorous critique but also support and encouragement. He pushed me to improve my writing and build on my ability to negotiate on behalf of clients. He shared in my happiness at successful outcomes and still updates me on the progress of cases that I was involved with during my externships.

The relaxed atmosphere of the organization belies a fierce devotion to its mission. The staff are passionate, dedicated, and welcoming. I recommend DRM to applicants interested in either direct client engagement or policy work; this is a unique and interesting work environment with many practice opportunities for staff and students to choose from.

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.


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.