The End is in Sight
Tallahassee, FL (April 29, 2013) As of today, we are in the last week of the 2013 Legislative Session, and most of the state agencies our member agencies work with fared well regarding budget appropriations and substantive policy legislation. Not having to fight budget cuts was indeed good! Also, it is rewarding to see the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) is beginning to receive funding to address its waitlist for DD services. Health care expansion was a contentious issue this year and is still being debated.
Florida ARF & Member Agencies Celebrate DD Days
Tallahassee, FL (March 7, 2013) Florida ARF and several member agencies along with other DD stakeholders gathered to celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day at the Capitol. During the press conference, Governor Rick Scott shared his proposed 2013-2014 budget of $1.1 billion for APD. This budget allocation provides $36 million in needed funding to people on the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) waitlist of more than 22,000 people. The Florida Families First Budget also includes $2.5 million to assist people on the waitlist who have indicated that they want to go to work. Governor Rick Scott said, “We are working to make sure every Florida family has the opportunity to get a job and a great education, and from our efforts – it’s working. Since December 2010, Florida has created around 200,000 private-sector jobs and our unemployment rate continues to drop. Our commitment to helping people on the APD waitlist, as well as assisting people who want to work, is another step in our plan to ensure that every Floridian has an opportunity to live the American Dream.” APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “We greatly appreciate Governor Scott’s support of our work to improve the agency. We have been meeting with families and stakeholders to determine the best approach to begin serving people on our waiting list. We hope the legislature will also see the importance of this critical funding for the agency. The additional money for employment opportunities will help individuals to become self-sufficient, enhance their quality of life, and benefit their families and Florida’s economy.” Florida ARF commends the Governor on his budget proposal and were happy to participate in DD Day 2013.
Florida ARF & Member Agencies Celebrate the Governor’s Announcement of $36 Million for APD Waiting List
Miami, FL (February 8, 2013) Florida Governor Rick Scott, joined by Florida ARF, member agencies, and other disability stakeholders, highlighted his Florida Families First 2013-2014 Budget, which provides $36 million in funding to people on the APD waiting list. The $36 million increase will allow an additional 750 individuals with critical needs on the waiting list to enroll in the APD Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Medicaid waiver so they will receive services in their local communities. Governor Scott made his announcement at the campus of the Association for the Development of the Exceptional (ADE) on North Miami Avenue. At the press conference, the Governor also highlighted a $2.5 million targeted investment through his budget that provides career services to individuals with disabilities that would open up job opportunities to 1,000 people. “We are truly thrilled to hear this great news and offer our heartfelt thanks to Governor Scott. The Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities applauds Governor Scott’s decision to step forward and meet the needs of Floridians with developmental disabilities. The addition of funding to enroll individuals on the developmental disabilities Medicaid waiver will greatly enhance the lives of these people and those who provide for their daily needs. Additionally, providing supported employment services for another 1,000 individuals means these individuals have the opportunity to achieve their employment goals for the first time in their lives,” said Florida ARF President & CEO Suzanne Sewell.
DD Stakeholders Meet to Share Legislative Platforms
Tallahassee, FL (January 31, 2013) Florida ARF joined with other Stakeholders who serve individuals with disabilities to share their 2013 Legislative Platforms and identify areas where the various groups could work together. The event was hosted by the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council and included presentations from the DD Council, Florida ARF, The Arc of Florida, the Florida Family Care Council, Disability Rights Florida, Florida Self Advocacy Alliance, Supported Employment providers, the Department of Education – Exceptional Student Education, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Florida ARF President & CEO Suzanne Sewell presented the Association’s 2013 Legislative Platform and responded to several questions from the participants.
Florida ARF & RESPECT of Florida Staff Wish 2013 Greetings and Best Wishes!
Tallahassee, FL (December 17, 2012) The staff of Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida wish each of our member agencies, Employment Centers, and stakeholders a happy and prosperous 2013. Our staff are committed to assisting over 100 community agencies with achievement of their mission to provide quality services and supports to assist individuals with disabilities in achievement of their individual goals. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to represent your interests and we look forward to serving you in 2013!
Florida ARF Announces Employment Outcomes Professional Training System
Tallahassee, FL (November 5, 2012) Florida ARF is pleased to announce that as a result of a partnership with DTG-EMP, we are now able to offer Employment Outcomes Professional Training (EOPII) for agencies that provide employment support and placement services for individuals with disabilities. The training is internationally acclaimed and has shown positive outcomes regarding job placements for individuals with disabilities. Based on the premise that job development succeeds when job developers know and understand employer needs, participants will learn proven techniques for approaching employers. Several organizations from across the state have already participated in train-the-trainer sessions led by Allen Anderson, the author and developer of the system. Suzanne Sewell, President and CEO stated, “We are pleased to bring this internationally recognized training to Florida, and I am confident that more Floridians with disabilities will be employed in their communities because of well-trained employment specialists who have a new understanding of employer needs.” Ongoing training will be conducted by Florida ARF trainers on a periodic basis throughout the state. Organizations who provide employment services and are interested in implementing the EOPII model should contact Courtney Swilley.
RESPECT of Florida Recognized During Disability Employment Awareness Celebration
Tallahassee, FL (October 31, 2012) On October 18th, Governor Rick Scott celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness Month at the Tallahassee City Hall by recognizing exceptional employers of Floridians with disabilities. Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad was one of the first dignitaries recognized by program host Barbara Palmer, Director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. The Department was recognized for its commitment to hiring over 600 Floridians with disabilities through an award winning public/private partnership with Florida ARF d/b/a RESPECT of Florida. Suzanne Sewell, Florida ARF President & CEO, and RESPECT of Florida Director John McBride thanked Secretary Ananth Prasad for his leadership and commitment to employing individuals with disabilities.
Florida ARF & FADSP Celebrate Direct Support Professionals (DSP) Recognition Week
Tallahassee, FL (September 14, 2012) During the week of September 9-15, Florida ARF & the Florida Alliance for Direct Support Professional (FADSP) proudly celebrated DSP Recognition Week. We are pleased to announce Governor Rick Scott signed a letter recognizing DSPs and raising awareness for the Direct Support Professional Recognition Week. Scott stated “Direct support professionals provide a broad range of support for many Floridians with disabilities. These dedicated professionals help disabled citizens by increasing their independence, keeping them connected with their family and community, and offering support and encouragement on a daily basis.” We totally agree with Governor Scott!
As part of the recognition activity, Florida ARF and FADSP sponsored feature articles on DSPs across the state who represent the backbone of our direct care service system. Their stories clearly communicated the loving attitude and dedication of many DSPs who give so freely of themselves to serve others. DSPs that are making a tremendous difference across the state are:
To all the DSPs across Florida, we offer a hearty “Thank you for all that you do!”
Florida ARF Hosts Monthly AFFINITY Call for Employment Forum Members
August 2012 (Tallahassee, FL) On August 30, Florida ARF Employment Consultant Bill Sandonato hosted the monthly Florida ARF AFFINITY Group call for Employment Forum members. The August presentation featured updates on Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Counseling as a new Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) service. Guest presenter Harold Thornton from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation provided useful information on how Work Incentives Planning and Assistance services can be accessed. We are pleased that member agencies are working in partnership with DVR to provide this much needed service for individuals who are recipients of Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Each month, Florida ARF hosts one-hour AFFINITY Group calls. The calls are a member benefit and feature guest presenters and networking opportunities for agencies that provide employment related services and supports for individuals with disabilities.
Florida ARF President & CEO Presents to PCI Administrators
Tallahassee, FL (July 24, 2012) Florida ARF President & CEO Suzanne Sewell met with Quest Management Group and five Pensacola Care, Inc. ICF facility representatives from Pensacola, Ft. Walton Beach, Panama City, Tallahassee, and Tampa to discuss “Bridging the Gap Between ICF/DD & Community-Based Care.” Sewell shared information with participants regarding the overall makeup of ICFs, the concept of active treatment, vacancy trend data, Department of Justice activity, and future trends that will shape the program. During the Florida ARF 36th Annual Conference, Sewell will share a similar presentation with Association ICF/DD members.
Florida ARF & RESPECT of Florida Reflect on the 13th Anniversary of Olmstead
Tallahassee, FL (June 26, 2012) On June 22, 1999, the Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v. L.C. that the unjustified institutional isolation of people with disabilities is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On the 13th anniversary of this civil rights decision, Florida ARF, RESPECT of Florida, and our members remain committed to eliminating discrimination and to meeting the needs and concerns of individuals with disabilities. While this landmark decision has guided progress for individuals with disabilities over the last 13 years, our advocacy efforts must remain strong to ensure even more success. We still have much work to do to ensure that individuals with disabilities receive the community based services and supports required to promote independence and choice. Our intended legacy remains: To make a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities. We join with our member agencies in reaffirming this goal and look forward to the successes to come!
RESPECT of Florida Implements Web-Based Meetings
Tallahassee, FL (May 16, 2012) Beginning with the RESPECT of Florida Oversight Committee (ROC), a new webinar system is being utilized for meetings. This new system saves time and money for participants and the RESPECT of Florida program. ROC Members have had nothing but a positive reaction to the new format. ROC Chair Shirley Balogh shared the following comments on the new format: “Very cost and time effective for everyone yet very interactive.” ROC Committee Member and Florida ARF Treasurer Tina Philips also stated: “Congratulations to you on a great conference format. “ The Association plans to continue using this format for more meetings and events in the future.
Florida ARF Hosts Spring Quarterly Meeting
Tallahassee, FL (April 30, 2012) On April 24-26, Florida ARF sponsored its Spring Quarterly Meeting in Clearwater Beach. Our members benefitted from the collective knowledge shared by guest presenters from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) and the Department of Education - Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). APD Chief of Staff Barbara Palmer discussed APD strategic plan initiatives with members and responded to their concerns. Members also heard VR program updates and provided input on proposed provider scorecards. As discussed during the quarterly meeting, many service system changes are occurring at the State and National level and these changes will influence impact the lives of individuals with disabilities. Florida ARF is committed to helping its member agencies and the individuals they serve navigate the forthcoming changes in a manner that will result in positive client outcome!
Florida ARF & RESPECT of Florida Celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
Tallahassee, FL (March 20, 2012) On February 20th, Governor Rick Scott proclaimed March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. In response to the proclamation, a celebration was hosted by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) on March 20th at the Florida Capitol. As part of the festivities, Attorney General Pam Bondi introduced a resolution at the March 20th Florida Cabinet meeting and proclaimed March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Florida ARF attended the Cabinet meeting and Courtyard activities, and RESPECT of Florida exhibited on employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities on the 3rd floor of the Capitol. President & CEO Suzanne Sewell thanks Governor Scott for acknowledging the dozens of partner organizations and thousands of private sector and community providers who provide supports for individuals with developmental disabilities. Sewell said: "While the day was all about individuals with developmental disabilities, we are grateful the Governor and his staff remembered to acknowledge the efforts of those who work daily to make a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities."
Florida ARF & Members Say Thank You
Tallahassee, FL (March 13, 2012) On Friday, March 9th, the 2012 Florida Legislative Session ended at 11:59 p.m. Florida ARF realized numerous successful outcomes for member agencies and the individuals they serve. Of major importance is the additional funding for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities waiver program, restoration of the Adults with Disabilities Fund within the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and revisions to reimbursement rate methodologies for ICF/DDs. As the Session closes, Florida ARF and its members say “thank you” to our Government Relations team led by Ron Book and Kelly Mallette and joined by Susan Goldstein. We also acknowledge the support of Representative Matt Hudson, Representative Denise Grimsley, Representative Will Weatherford, Representative Dean Cannon, Senator Joe Negron, Senator JD Alexander, and Senate President Mike Haridopolos who are truly Champions for individuals with developmental disabilities
Florida ARF Members Advocate for Individuals with Disabilities
Tallahassee, FL (February 24, 2012) Florida ARF’s Government Relations Chair (Katie Porta) and I want to thank all of our member agencies, families, and advocates who traveled to Tallahassee during the 7th week of the 2012 Legislative Session. A number of you traveled many miles and shared concerns with your local legislators regarding funding for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) and the Adults with Disabilities program within the Vocational Rehabilitation program. Many of you also expressed your concerns about proposed APD program changes within SB 1516 and SB 1990. As the 2012 Session comes to a close, we are pleased that the Florida Legislature listened to and funded the APD Home and Community Based Services waiver at an appropriate level. Also, we are pleased to announce that the Adults with Disabilities program funding will continue. Florida ARF truly appreciates the fact that our members and the individuals they served, along with advocates, made the effort to Tallahassee to communicate your need and share your views with the Florida Legislature and policy makers. Because of your efforts, many individuals with disabilities will receive the services they need during FY 2012-13. Again, thank you for your efforts and all that you did to achieve successful outcomes for individuals with disabilities! ---Clint Bower, Florida ARF Board Chair
Florida ARF Members, Families, & Self-Advocates Advocate During Session
Tallahassee, FL (January 27, 2012) During the 3rd week of the 2012 Legislative Session, Florida ARF members, self-advocates, and families came to Tallahassee to advocate for the needs of individuals with disabilities. A number of advocates shared concerns on funding for APD as well as the system changes proposed in SB 1516 with their local legislators and the Governor. Individuals in attendance also provided compelling testimony before the Senate Health & Human Services Appropriations Committee and the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee. Florida ARF appreciates everyone sharing their views with the Florida Legislature and the Governor.