Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Maine Rural Health Research Center, Population Health and Health Policy

Karen Pearson

Policy Analyst
Karen Pearson


432A Wishcamper Center

Contact Information

Phone: (207) 780-4553

Karen joined the Muskie School community in 1992, bringing her professional skills of knowledge management and online information retrieval to the dedicated research faculty and staff in the Institute for Health Policy, now known as the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy. She quickly became part of the Maine Rural Health Research Center, assisting and then directing the national Rural Health Research in Progress project, which provided a synopsis of the funded research projects of the federal Office of Rural Health Policy’s Rural Health Research Program. She provides in-depth literature searches for project-specific work in the fields of rural health, public health, Medicaid, and long-term care, identifying relevant policy and practice from state and federal agencies, and researching best practices. Additionally, she participated as part of the research staff on the AHRQ-funded SAFER project, conducting qualitative interviews with the Critical Access Hospital pilot teams. She recently conducted and published two evidence-based quality improvement policy briefs for the National Rural Hospital Flexibility Monitoring Project (Flex Program) on falls prevention programs in Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) and on patient safety transfer protocols in CAHs. She directed a national project for the Flex Program on the evidence for community paramedicine in rural communities, and is Co-Principal Investigator for an evaluation of the Maine community paramedicine program.

Education: Bachelor of Arts, North Park College, Chicago; Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS), University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Master of Arts (MA), in Education, Saint Xavier University, Chicago.

Research Interests: Knowledge management, Rural health system access and delivery, Rural patient safety, Population health and health services research.

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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