Who We Are

Our Mission


To ensure autonomy, inclusion, equality, and access for people with disabilities in Maine.

Disability Rights Maine (DRM) is Maine’s 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

  • James Clifford, Esq., President
  • Amy Phalon, Esq., Vice President
  • Sean Ociepka, Esq., Secretary
  • Claire Ginder, Esq., Treasurer
  • Chad Hanson, Esq., Immediate Past President
  • Karen Farber
  • Simonne Maline
  • Eric McVay
  • William Norbert
  • Richard O'Meara, Esq.
  • Andrew R. Sarapas, Esq.
  • Kathleen Shevenell
  • Tracy Silverman
  • Willie Tarr
  • Rachel Violette, Esq.
  • Sally Walsh

Board of Directors Advisory Committee

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

DRM Staff

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.

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  • Simonne Maline, Chair
  • Jennifer Allain-Winchester
  • Andrew Bilyeu
  • Melissa Caswell
  • Monica Elwell
  • Karen Evans
  • Karen Gagne
  • Vickie McCarty
  • Kate McLinn
  • Edward Scott
  • Laurie Wallace

DD Partners for Positive Change

  • Margaret Cardoza
  • Keith Curit
  • Patrick Diehl
  • David Lawrence
  • Amy Madsen
  • Eric McVay
  • Derick Moreau
  • Kile Pelletier
  • Stephanie Tardiff
  • Sarah Trites
  • Joshua Weidemann

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 Individuals with 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. In Maine, CARES, Inc. operates the Client Assistance Program.
  • 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.

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.

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!

Barrett Littlefield

Extern, Spring 2017

Born and raised in central and mid-coast Maine, Barrett graduated from Vassar College in 2009 with a BA in Urban Studies. Over the next six years Barrett was employed at social work agencies in Louisiana and Maine, working with folks experiencing homelessness and individuals with co-occurring disorders, in addition to community organizing around issues of incarceration and poverty. Currently, he is a Juvenile Justice Fellow at the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic and rising-3L at the University of Maine School of Law.

In general, I wanted to work with Disability Rights Maine because it was an opportunity to work with our state’s protection and advocacy agency. More specifically, I was interested in working with DRM after learning about the work their Kids Team was doing with and on behalf of incarcerated youth and youth in mental health and residential treatment facilities throughout Maine. I had the opportunity to participate in their ongoing monitoring of these facilities, researched matters related to the criminalization of youth in residential care facilities, and gathered and analyzed data regarding law enforcement contact with youth in residential care facilities in Maine.

Barrett is an attorney with the Maine Community Law Center in Portland.

Chloe Sarapas

Intern, Fall 2016

I had the privilege of interning at DRM from September 2016 to January 2017. During my five months at DRM I assisted Sara Squires, Public Policy Director, and Rick Langley, Deputy Director, in research and outlining a potential training for law enforcement officials on best practices when engaging with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, have Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities, or are experiencing mental illness. Outlining this training involved researching materials such as news articles and trainings used by other experts on each topic and structuring these materials in a manner to suit DRM’s purposes; it was the perfect way for me to expand my knowledge not only of each topic itself, but also of the issues related to encounters between law enforcement officials and individuals with disabilities.

I found my experience at DRM to be extremely valuable. First and foremost, my time as an intern solidified my desire to pursue a career in the non-profit world where I can make a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable populations alongside co-workers who have passions for the same causes. My internship at DRM also gave me the experience I needed to take on my current role as a Project and Administration Coordinator at a non-profit for homeless women in Sydney, Australia. In short, I feel lucky to have been able to intern in an environment in which my passions were pursued, my education was expanded upon, and my professional skills were further developed. Many thanks to DRM for making this a possibility!

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 is currently an Associate at O'Donnell, Lee, McCowan & Phillips, P.A., in Waterville.

Foxfire Buck

Extern, Summer 2015

Foxfire worked as a summer intern at DRM in Summer 2015, after receiving a public interest fellowship from the University of Maine School of Law. Before enrolling at Maine Law in 2014, Foxfire graduated from Hamilton College with a BA in Comparative Literature. After graduating from college, she taught middle school special education in New York City.

After completing her 1L year at Maine Law, Foxfire applied to join DRM for the summer because she wanted to work toward access to justice for traditionally societally-disadvantaged groups, and particularly, for people with disabilities. During her time at DRM, she worked on different projects with various teams. Specifically, among other things, Foxfire assisted the education team with preparations for a due process hearing for a student with disabilities, researched matters relating to adult guardianship through the probate courts, and worked on preparations for an administrative hearing on the restoration of services for an adult with a disability.

Foxfire joined the staff of DRM in August 2018 and works in the Developmental Services Advocacy program as the advocate for Cumberland & York counties.

Bre Kidman

Extern, Spring 2015

I’m a criminal defense attorney with my own practice, Honey Comb Law, having previously worked at the Law Office of Robert Ruffner where we focused on the needs of indigent clients. I was drawn to DRM in my second year at Maine Law because of the ability to work in both litigation and policy spheres on social justice issues impacting real Mainers. During my time there, I worked with Peter Rice on drafting a federal complaint about cuts to MaineCare services, with Staci Converse on interviewing a possible client at Riverview, and advocating for a young man’s placement in a facility that would serve his needs. The externship was an exceptional way for me to get an understanding of a number of different types of law while doing work which both aligned closely with my personal values and advocated for Mainers’ civil rights.

Jake Bowie

Extern, Summer 2014

My name is Jake Bowie, I am a native Mainer and graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. I currently practice in the private sector at Ainsworth, Thelin & Raftice, P.A. in South Portland. Outside of the office, I enjoy most anything to do with New England sports teams and I am an avid golfer.

I interned with DRM for the summer following my second year of law school. I worked primarily with Staci Converse, Esq. and Peter Rice, Esq. on a variety of issues from appealing one client’s denial MaineCare benefits to a potential appeal of a housing denial, to another client’s desire to stay and age in place at a facility of his choosing. I cannot say enough good things about my experience at DRM, both regarding the people who make it work and the experience I gained. The hands on, actual legal work I did was invaluable experience for moving on to “the real world” post law school; only so much can be taught in a text book or classroom. Aside from practical experience and exposure to real, on the ground lawyering I learned a lot about the legal situation of many Mainers whose legal issues don’t make headlines. There is a lot of great work done at DRM to ensure that individuals do not lose individuality unnecessarily, and that people are provided with requisite care and an equally requisite amount of ability for self-determination and integrity.

In short, I could not be happier about my time as a summer intern with DRM, and would encourage any law student to take on the same role. It is not one that they will regret.

Neil Riley

Intern, Fall 2012

DRM was a great way to get exposure to different areas of the law. I was able to work on issues ranging from preventing discrimination of those with disabilities in education to the rights of individuals under guardianship. I was able to write memo’s and participate in meetings like a regular staff member. The staff has so much experience in the field that there was never a day that I didn’t learn something new. The best thing about working at the DRM is that you get see the big picture down to how that affects the individual. You get to go in each day knowing that the work you do will make a difference in someone’s life.

Neil is managing partner at Riley McGuire Partners, LLC in Louisville, KY.

Tavis Hasenfus

Intern, Summer 2012

Tavis Hasenfus is currently an associate attorney at Levey, Wagley, Putman and Eccher, P.A. where he has been since 2014. Tavis graduated from the University of Maine in 2010 and then received his J. D. from the University of Maine School of Law in 2013. Tavis had a summer internship with DRM Maine in 2012, where he worked on a variety of projects. He helped to research Maine’s voting facilities to make sure that they were accessible for persons with disabilities, as well as working to develop a comprehensive plan for Maine to improve accessibility at all of its voting places. He also worked with the staff attorneys on administrative hearings by drafting written arguments, complaints, and research memorandums. It was a tremendously helpful experience for him as it allowed him to explore a wide variety of legal issues, while also getting first-hand knowledge of the legal process.

Joe Zamboni

Extern, 2011

My 2011 externship at DRM was extremely informative, and helped shape my legal career. DRM provided insight and guidance into a spectrum of advocacy work, from team meetings and administrative hearings all the way up to federal cases. DRM understands all the tools a lawyer needs to be successful, from collaborative partnerships and negotiations, to class actions. DRM also influences and shapes health policy across the state. This experience is a must-do for those who want to work in health and law, but also a wonderful experience for those who are considering in a career in health and advocacy.

Joe currently works as the Patient Advocacy Program Manager for the Maine Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.

Michael Burian

Intern, Spring 2010

I enjoyed my time at DRM and believe it was a valuable experience. The agency has a great group of folks there who do great work. The things that stand out for me include having the opportunity to work directly with clients, researching and thinking about interesting issues, and being able to conduct an administrative hearing largely on my own. Additionally, some of the issues I saw at DRM occasionally arise in my health law practice, which is helpful. I’d highly recommend the experience to others.

Michael is an attorney at Kozak & Gayer, P.A. in Augusta, where his practice focuses on general health law.

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.