Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Maine Rural Health Research Center, Population Health and Health Policy

Maine Rural Health Research Center

Established in 1992, the Maine Rural Health Research Center draws on the multidisciplinary faculty and research resources and capacity of the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy within the USM Muskie School of Public Service. The Center's mission is to inform health care policymaking and the delivery of rural health services through high quality, policy relevant research, policy analysis and technical assistance on rural health issues of regional and national significance.

The Maine Rural Health Research Center focuses on barriers to health access for rural residents and related topics, including insurance coverage, Medicaid, behavioral health, long term services & supports, and challenges faced by rural providers (rural health clinics & critical access hospitals) in delivering and sustaining services. For over 20 years, the Maine Rural Health Research Center’s research agenda has focused on some of the most intractable health access problems facing rural residents, especially those with mental health and substance abuse issues and those facing financial barriers due to lack of insurance and under-insurance. That body of research has helped reveal the effects of policy and health system organization and financing on rural health access. The Center is committed to enhancing policymaking and improving the access, delivery and financing of rural health services by effectively linking its research to the policy development process through appropriate dissemination strategies.


Visit the Flex Monitoring Team website to view publications authored by the Maine Rural Health Research staff.

New Publications

  • Hansen, AY, Hartley, D. Promoting Active Living in Rural Communities. [Research Brief]. San Diego, CA: Active Living Research; September, 2015.
  • Gale J, Lendarson, J. Catastrophic Consequences: Preliminary Findings on the Use of Opioids in Rural Communities.  Webinar presented on June 25, 2015.
  • Ziller E, Lenardson J, Coburn A. Rural Implications of Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Minneapolis, MN: State Health Access Reform Evaluation; February, 2015.
  • Lenardson JD, Hansen AY, Hartley D. Rural and Remote Food Environments and Obesity. Current Obesity Reports. 2015. doi: 10.1007/s13679-014-0136-5.
  • Tupper JB, Gray CE, Pearson KB, Coburn AF. Safety of Rural Nursing Home-to-Emergency Department Transfers: Improving Communication and Patient Information Sharing across Settings. J Healthc Qual. 2015;37(1):55-65.
  • Lenardson JD, Hartley D, Gale J, Pearson KB. Substance Use and Abuse in Rural America. In: Warren JC, Smiley KB, eds. Rural Public Health: Best Practices and Preventive Models. New York: Springer Publishing Company; 2014:95-114.
  • Lambert D, Gale J. Integrated Care in Rural Areas. In: Warren JC, Smiley KB, eds. Rural Public Health: Best Practices and Preventive Models. New York: Springer Publishing Company; 2014:67-84.
  • Ziller EC. Access to Medical Care in Rural America. In: Warren JC, Smiley KB, eds. Rural Public Health: Best Practices and Preventive Models. New York: Springer Publishing Company; 2014:11-28.

Cutler Institute awarded $600,000 to help youth raised in foster system

Marty Zanghi

USM's Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy has been awarded a $600,000 grant to help young people raised in Maine's foster system to prepare for college and the workforce.

The money comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of a $5.4 million national effort aimed at youth who are homeless or in either the foster care or juvenile justice systems.

"Many of these young people have suffered abuse or trauma and were raised in poverty and neglect," said Marty Zanghi, the Cutler Center's youth development director.

The money -- including an expected $400,000 more in matching funds -- will pay for contracted work with agencies in the target areas, starting with the greater Portland area and Penobscot, Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Nationally and in Maine, only about 3 percent of people who grow up in the foster care system achieve a college degree, he said.

"It's dramatically lower than the rate for the general population," Zanghi said. "It's a horrible outcome."

It doesn't have to be that way, though.

"There are young people that overcome these circumstances," he said. "I know people who have master's degrees and Ph.Ds."

The Casey Foundation's national effort is being called the "Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential" (LEAP) initiative.

The initiative is working on partnerships in Maine and nine other areas: Alaska, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York. In each case, people will adapt two evidence-based models to meet the needs of these youth, including support to address the trauma they may have experienced in their lives.

In Maine, the work will include a pair of successful programs, Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) and Jobs for the Future. Results will be carefully tracked, Zanghi said.

After the first year, the program is expected to grow.

"Eventually, the additional help will be available to all children, 14 and over, in the foster care system in the state of Maine," Zanghi said.

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