VCU program that trains leaders, advocates in field of childhood disabilities receives $3.1 million

An interdisciplinary training program at Virginia Commonwealth University that prepares professionals for leadership and advocacy roles in the field of childhood disabilities has been awarded a $3.1 million federal grant.

The Virginia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities — or Va-LEND — received the five-year grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Va-LEND has competed for and received continuous funding from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau for the past 20 years.

The program is a collaboration of six schools within VCU and the Title V program of the Virginia Department of Health. This project is committed to preparing professionals and pre-professionals from 14 different disciplines across six VCU schools to assume leadership roles within the health care system to serve children with developmental and related disabilities and their families.

The program targets a high-risk population of children and their families and addresses priority issues of reducing health disparities, providing access to family-centered care and delivering quality care through graduate-level interdisciplinary training.

It is the largest federally funded project under the Partnership for People with Disabilities, a center of the School of Education. The funding for the new grant cycle is almost $60,000 more per year than the previous cycle and moves Va-LEND into the second of three tiers for LEND projects in the United States.

“This is an exciting time as we expand the number of graduate-level trainees each year and build our capacity to have a statewide training presence,” said Beth Bader, Ph.D., associate director of Va-LEND and a faculty member of the Department of Counseling and Special Education in the School of Education.

“The increased capacity to provide exemplary screening, diagnosis and family-centered care of Virginia’s children with significant developmental disabilities including autism, and increased capacity to provide the supports needed by their families, will be facilitated through the interdisciplinary team approach, a longtime cornerstone of Va-LEND,” she added.

The project is a collaboration of VCU’s School of Education, School of MedicineSchool of DentistrySchool of Allied Health ProfessionsSchool of Nursing and School of Social Work.

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 30,000 students in 233 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Twenty-two of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, and MCV Physicians. The clinical enterprise includes a collaboration with Sheltering Arms Institute for physical rehabilitation services. For more, please visit and