The Wyoming Institute for Disabilities (WIND is the WY LEND) has tapped the MN LEND program at the University of Minnesota's Institute on Community Integration (ICI is the MN UCEDD/LEND) to create a network of partner organizations across Minnesota that will enhance developmental screening, monitoring and education for families dealing with the effects of opioid exposure.

The effort is part of a national training initiative called Project SCOPE: Supporting Children of the OPioid Epidemic. Under the initiative, MN LEND will assemble a statewide interdisciplinary team to complete immersion training in ECHO-SCOPE, a guided practice model that uses knowledge-sharing videoconference networks led by expert training teams. The model brings the latest evidence-based training in disability and other services to families, educators, providers and administrators in their homes, schools and offices.

ICI's Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (MN LEND) fellowship program will coordinate the effort, in cooperation with the ICI Telehealth Laboratory and its Learn the Signs, Act Early autism intervention team. Several of ICI's external partners, including the state's major health agencies, Hennepin County, the Minneapolis Public Schools Early Childhood Special Education Family Navigators Program and University of Minnesota's Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, are expected to be part of the network, which will launch in the fall.

"We're creating a hub of statewide partners across disciplines so we can be a resource for each other to ensure children affected by opioids get access to early supports," said Rebecca Dosch Brown, program director for MN LEND. "We need to share the development trajectory and evidence-based practices for optimal long-term development with families and others, such as foster families and professionals."

Opioids accounted for 60 percent of Minnesota's 694 drug-related deaths in 2017, according to the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program. The number of children removed from their homes due to parental drug use increased by 128 percent between 2012 and 2016.
"While opioid use has increased significantly in Minnesota, our systems have not kept pace with the growing need to support families holistically," Dosch Brown said.

Multiple developmental variables make pinpointing opioids' long-term neurocognitive effects difficult. Last year, however, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics summarized a professional panel of experts, noting emerging literature suggesting an association between neonates exposed to opioids in utero and longer-term adverse developmental and neurocognitive outcomes.

ICI's Jennifer Hall-Lande is principal investigator for the project. Others on the team, in addition to Dosch Brown, include Pediatrics Associate Professor Rebekah Hudock; Chimei Lee, a pediatric neuropsychology fellow at University of Minnesota Medical School; Jessica Simacek (pictured onscreen with her son), ICI's Telehealth Laboratory manager; and current MNLEND Fellow Whitney Terrill.

Each academic year, MN LEND brings together a cross section of fellows for an interdisciplinary leadership training program. Fellows are professionals, self-advocates, and family members from the greater community, as well as post-doctoral researchers and graduate students from more than 16 University of Minnesota academic disciplines. The LEND experience has allowed ICI to form relationships with a significant and diverse group of organizations, a key component of the Project SCOPE effort.