Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) programs provide long-term, graduate level interdisciplinary training as well as interdisciplinary services and care. The purpose of the LEND training program is to improve the health of infants, children, and adolescents with disabilities. They accomplish this by preparing trainees from diverse professional disciplines to assume leadership roles in their respective fields and by ensuring high levels of interdisciplinary clinical competence.
LEND programs operate within a university system, usually as part of a University Center for Excellence (UCEDD) or other larger entity, and collaborate with local university hospitals and/or health care centers. This set-up gives them the expert faculty, facilities, and other resources necessary to provide exceptional interdisciplinary training and services.
There are 52 LEND programs located in 44 US states, with an additional six states and three territories reached through program partnerships. Collectively, they form a national network that shares information and resources and maximizes their impact. They work together to address national issues of importance to children with special health care needs and their families, exchange best practices and develop shared products. They also come together regionally to address specific issues and concerns.
Va-LEND is the largest federally funded project of the Partnership of People with Disabilities within the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education and involves 16 disciplines from 13 different Programs/Departments in 6 Schools at VCU, the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Longwood University, and the University of Richmond Law School. On July 1, 2016, Va-LEND was awarded $3.1 million for the grant period of 2016-2021. This interdisciplinary leadership training program is supported by Project # T73MC00040 from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (Public Health Service Act, Section 399BB (e)(1)(A), as amended by the Autism Cares Act of 2014, Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services.While each LEND program is unique, with its own focus and expertise, they all provide interdisciplinary training, have faculty and trainees in a wide range of disciplines, and include parents or family members as paid program participants. They also share the following objectives:
- Advance the knowledge and skills of all child health professionals to improve health care delivery systems for children with developmental disabilities.
- Provide high-quality interdisciplinary education that emphasizes the integration of services from state and local agencies and organizations, private providers, and communities.
- Provide health professionals with skills that foster community-based partnerships.
- Promote innovative practices to enhance cultural competency, family-centered care, and interdisciplinary partnerships.
The LENDs grew from the 1950s efforts of the Children’s Bureau (now the Maternal and Child Health Bureau) to identify children with disabilities as a Title V program priority. They are funded under the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act, and are administered by the Health Resources and Service’s Administration’s (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB).