Addressing Emotional Health Needs of People with IDD During a Pandemic: A Model Demonstration Project to Promote Engagement

View presentation on HealthMatters Program YouTube Playlist
Date and time: Tuesday, August 25, 2020 1:00 pm CDT
Duration: 1 hour and 3 minutes
Handout: PowerPoint Presentation-Rachel London, Ande Kolp, Donna Retzlaff, and Luann Brechbill

Resource: Small Grant Opportunity: Engagement and Comfort during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Overview: The Arc Maryland and the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council collaborated to provide small grants to community-based organizations that provide supports to people with developmental disabilities (DD) who have been affected by the statewide Coronavirus response. This webinar will describe the initiative and present main outcomes and lessons learned. The initiative was designed as a model demonstration project; to identify effective strategies that people with DD, families, and provider agencies used to maintain and promote engagement with peers and to alleviate stress and anxiety during periods of social distancing and isolation. By identifying these effective strategies, the information gathered may be used to develop preventative plans and influence future emergency preparedness for people with disabilities and their families, including future pandemics, on local, state, and national levels. A total of 46 organizations in Maryland were awarded grant funding through a proposal evaluation process. And, the lives of 2946 people with DD living in 21 counties and Baltimore City were positively impacted through the initiative and use of grant funds. Upon review of the final reports submitted by participating organizations, some outcomes stood out as overarching or common to almost all grantees including increased connectedness to family, friends, and the community resulting in positive changes to behavior, increased exposure to, and use of technology, decreased anxiety, increased job satisfaction for DSPs, and emergence of innovative approaches to interacting and social support.

Learning Objectives:

  1. describe the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council and The Arc Maryland’s initiative to support people with DD, families, and provider agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  2. identify effective strategies that people with DD, families, and provider agencies employed to maintain and promote engagement with family and friends and alleviate stress and anxiety during periods of social distancing and isolation; and,
  3. discuss lessons learned from the initiative and implications for the future.

Rachel London is the Executive Director of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council, a statewide public policy and advocacy organization promoting the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life. Rachel has been with the Council for 12 years, serving as the Director of Children & Family Policy and Deputy Director prior to becoming Executive Director. Rachel earned her Bachelor’s Degree and Law Degree from the University of Maryland. After law school, she was a staff attorney at Disability Rights Maryland where she was active in many important civil rights issues for adults with developmental disabilities, including the closure of the Rosewood Center.

Ande Kolp is the Executive Director of The Arc Maryland. Over three decades, Ande has supported people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families in various positions within Maryland and Iowa. Ande holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Therapy from the University of Iowa and a Master’s Degree in Special Education with a Concentration in Severe Disabilities from The Johns Hopkins University. Prior to joining The Arc Maryland, she was the executive director for Compass, Inc.; a private non-profit organization, specializing in residential and employment supports for people with co-occurring IDD and mental health conditions.

Donna Retzlaff currently serves as the Executive Director of Spring Dell Center, a nonprofit agency that provides residential, employment and community services in Charles County. Donna is a Towson University graduate with a degree in Business Administration, and she has spent her career working to improve the health, well-being and opportunities for citizens with developmental disabilities while supporting the transformation of supports that are person-directed and integrated in the community. Donna has served as the Board President of the Maryland Association of Community Services (MACS), the statewide provider association for agencies that provide community-based supports and services. Donna has presented at state and national conferences to promote supports and employment for people with disabilities, and advocated at the federal, state and local levels for direct support professional wages and funding for people using supports. She has served on numerous State level committees and task forces charged with the transformation of supports for people with developmental disabilities. Donna is also an active member of the Charles County Chamber of Commerce, the Southern Maryland Business Network, and MACS.

Luann Brechbill joined Star Community as the new Executive Director in October 2019. She has 20+ years of non-profit experience and two master’s degrees – a Master of Science in Special Education and Teaching from Mercyhurst University, and a Master of Education in Psychology from Edinboro University. While studying at Edinburg University, she joined the staff at Barber Institute in Erie, Pennsylvania as a direct support professional. There she realized that she could have a greater impact working one-to-one with individuals in direct care rather than teaching in a classroom. She moved into a behavioral specialist role at Marakey, a nationally based developmental, behavioral health and education non-profit provider of integrated services to individuals and communities across the country, and later joined Keystone Autism Services where she was eventually promoted to Chief Operating Officer. Under her leadership, Keystone became the first in the nation to provide a comprehensive, integrated model of service delivery for adults on the Autism Spectrum. This model was home and community-based and focused on integrating healthcare, improving social skills, and supporting leisure and vocational skills for individuals. Under Luann’s direction, her team developed reporting measures and a new system that allowed for real time responses to insurance providers, resulting in better communication and efficiency. Luann’s career experience has taught her to see people first as adults – building upon their strengths and teaching them new skills that will allow them to engage in life more fully—going beyond perceived limitations and their diagnosis. She believes that as each person is treated as an adult, with strengths and the ability to learn new skills, their lives become more meaningful. Luann lives in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.


COVID-19 Webinar Series is presented by the HealthMatters Program, Department of Disability and Human Development, College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago with continued partnership with Project SEARCH, a leader in securing competitive employment for people with disabilities based at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and with Aspire an Illinois organization providing services to children and adults with developmental disabilities, their families and their communities.


  • There is no cost for these webinars.
  • CEUs are not offered for these webinars.
  • Webinars and materials will be recorded and archived on YouTube.
  • For disability accommodations email Jasmina Sisirak ( at least 10 days before the webinars.
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