Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Kris Sahonchik

Director, Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy
Kris Sahonchik

Office

331 Wishcamper Center

Contact Information

Phone: (207) 780-5856

Kris is a nationally recognized expert in the fields of child welfare and organizational improvement. She has advised state, territorial, and tribal governments from Maine to American Samoa.

Kris brings a commitment to improving the lives of our most vulnerable citizens to the development and application of objective criteria in evaluating and implementing public policy. Examples of her broad portfolio of work include developing policies and management systems in American Samoa; implementing a post-Katrina hurricane recovery and reform plan for the Louisiana Office of Community Services; and facilitating the creation of strategic plans for integrated children’s health, mental health, and human services in over a dozen states. Her approach to reform is focused on the design, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-informed policies and practices that are grounded in research, outcome-driven, and responsive to the needs of vulnerable children, families, and communities.

Kris has authored publications on strategic planning, public agency management, and child welfare and is often asked to speak about the issues to which she has dedicated much of her professional work: working with state and national government leaders and communities to develop long-term solutions for complex social issues. Kris brings this same commitment to her role as Director of the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy; she has served as Principal Investigator on two multi-year projects funded by the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement and the Northeast and Caribbean Child Welfare Implementation Center.

Kris teaches graduate courses at the Muskie School of Public Service on various topics, including Public Health Policy for Children and Families; Managing Change in Child, Youth, and Family Policy and Programs; and Child and Family Policy and Law. Kris attended the London School of Economics and holds a Juris Doctorate from the University of the District of Columbia and a Bachelor of Arts degree (with honors) from New York University. 

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.

New Chartbook on the Use of Maine's Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS)

Long Term Services and Supports Cover page image

Long term services and supports (LTSS) are a vital lifeline for the thousands of Maine adults who need them, and they account for a significant portion of the state's Medicaid (MaineCare) budget.This Chartbook prepared by the research staff at the USM Muskie School, provides information on all Maine adults who use LTSS: older adults; adults with physical disabilities; adults with intellectual disabilities/autism spectrum disorder or other related conditions; and adults with acquired brain injury.

The information provided in this Chartbook about the demographic trends that impact Maine's service system as well as data on the typical MaineCare service utilization and expenditures of different LTSS populations will inform the discussion among policymakers, providers, consumers, and advocates as they work together to ensure that Maine’s system of LTSS meets the needs of all its citizens.

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