Iowa LEND Trainees Explore the Intersection of Mental Health, Disability, and Incarceration

June 17, 2022

This year, 27 trainees completed the Iowa Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (Iowa LEND) program. Their graduation ceremony was held on May 5, two days after they had presented at the third annual virtual Iowa LEND Research Poster Symposium. As in previous years, the Symposium provided an impressive display of the talent, hard work and dedication of these emerging leaders. Three trainees from last year’s cohort returned to the program to serve as LEND Fellows. Returning trainee, Michaela Curran, MHA, mentored trainees in this year’s cohort throughout the year, and reviewed all their research posters and abstracts in preparation for the Symposium.

Each year, in addition to their individual research projects, Iowa LEND trainees participate in an interdisciplinary research project. This year’s project explored the intersection of mental health, disability, and incarceration, and gave trainees an opportunity to analyze how mental health and disability intersect with incarceration in Iowa.

Trainees in this year’s LEND cohort were divided into five research groups to conduct a literature review regarding the following goals:

  • Goal 1: Explain how policies and practices at Iowa’s public schools contribute to children being funneled into the juvenile justice and/or criminal legal system.
  • Goal 2: Learn how developmental disabilities and mental health impact the likelihood of arrest, conviction, and incarceration.
  • Goal 3: Learn about policies and practices that adversely impact mental health during incarceration and research alternatives to current practices.
  • Goal 4: Learn how self-harm, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts during incarceration are handled and research alternatives to current practices.
  • Goal 5: Research alternatives to seclusion, restraint, punitive discipline in public schools and the wider community.

Key findings from the project included a review of institutional bias in Iowa publics school, policies that address self-harm and suicide during incarceration, and alternatives to seclusion, restraint, and punishment.