Plans are announced for a new building to provide continued care for those with the development disorder.

With an oversized tent and golf cart shuttles to the rescue, downpours didn’t stop the Signs of Hope lawn party Aug. 1 at the Falmouth Foreside home of Sheri and Joe Boulos, longtime supporters of Maine Behavioral Healthcare and Spring Harbor Hospital.

“The goal this year is to open your hearts and minds to those who, for no fault of their own, have brains that work differently,” said Sheri Boulos, a member of the development committee.

Signs of Hope fundraising was crucial in establishing the organization’s Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders four years ago, led by autism spectrum disorders expert Dr. Matt Siegel and serving individuals through age 21. The grand announcement at this year’s event was that long-term plans include a major expansion to continue care through adulthood in a new building that will be named after Dr. Girard Robinson.

“This is a really important personal honor,” said Robinson, adding that it had been a major challenge in his career to expand access to behavioral healthcare.

Over the past 40 years, Robinson has worked as chief medical officer at Spring Harbor Hospital, senior vice president for medical and clinical affairs at Maine Behavioral Healthcare and chief of psychiatry at Maine Medical Center. Though retired from those roles, he is serving as interim director of substance use disorders at Maine Behavioral Healthcare.

“Dr. Robinson was instrumental in bringing our developmental disorders program to Maine, and we have one of the strongest developmental disorders treatment centers in the country,” said Maine Behavioral Healthcare Chief Executive Officer Steve Merz. “But we want to meet the needs of the children who are now adults, so they don’t have to go away for the services they need.”

“Tonight is the first step of raising funds for a major expansion to serve adults as well,” Siegel said.

With 150 guests, the majority of whom were host committee members, Signs of Hope raised more than $95,000.

“This is crucial to our success, helping us to expand services to a population that is underserved, both locally and nationally,” said Linda Durst, chief medical officer for Maine Behavioral Healthcare and chief of psychiatry at Maine Medical Center.

Attendees included parents of young adults with autism who used to have to travel to Boston for care, then were able to access services locally when the center was established – until their children aged out.

“We still need to do more for adults once they’ve aged out of high school and have graduated,” said Irene Kapothanasis, whose son Gregory is 25. “They’ve done a marvelous job with pre-K through high school. Now, we need to take the next step.”

“Maine Behavioral Health has have done a tremendous job of meeting the needs of children and adolescents, but the specialized needs of this population do not vanish after the age of 21,” said Wendi O’Donovan, whose son Ryan is 22. “In fact, as these children or adolescents become adults, their ability to injure themselves or others grows exponentially.”

“We need a whole continuum of care,” said Mary Jane Krebs, president of Spring Harbor Hospital and senior vice president for Maine Behavioral Healthcare. “We’re hoping in the next couple of years to have this larger center. It’s going to happen. We’re going to make it happen. It’s really needed.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

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