Florida ARF Members Begin Developing 2015 Platform
Tampa, FL (July 30, 2014) Member agencies from across the state met to develop the Association’s draft platform for the 2015 Legislative Session. The common concern members addressed was the need for provider rate reinstatement to ensure continued capacity to serve individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities in the community. Members noted since 2003 reimbursement rates have been cut 14.17% on average while the cost of living has increased 32.13% and minimum wage earnings have increased 54%. For private ICF/IIDs, the statutorily required rate freeze is driving rates down and this issue will again be a focus for ICFs. The draft platform will be approved during the Annual Business Meeting of the Association.
Florida ARF Participates in “Sweet Sixteen” Family Café
Tallahassee, FL (June 9, 2014) Florida ARF President & CEO Suzanne Sewell and Consultant Susan Goldstein represented the Association during the “Sweet Sixteen” 16th Annual Family Cafe which was held June 6-8, 2014, at the Hilton Orlando. This three-day conference provided a venue for individuals with disabilities and their families to learn about available services, connect with policymakers, and network with each other. NFL legend and disability advocate Dan Marino discussed his advocacy through the Dan Marino Foundation and the opening of the Marino Campus for students with disabilities in Fort Lauderdale on Friday evening. On Saturday morning, Governor Rick Scott joined The Annual Governor's Summit on Disabilities to share his vision for Floridians with disabilities and to hear from attendees about the issues that are most important to them.
Florida ARF Representatives Participate in ANCOR Conference
Miami, FL (May 7, 2014) This year ANCOR, our National Affiliate, hosted their 2014 national conference, Beyond the Envelope, in beautiful, sunny Miami on May 4-6, 2014. Florida ARF staff and members participated in the three day event. Participants heard from national leaders on the role we play in transforming the way individuals with disabilities are supported and how to move toward a more powerful community voice. Other sessions included fostering innovative support practices, testing of the “Google Glass” to enable individuals to enhance their lives, studying the managed care experiment in Kansas, assessing the impact of the new federal Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Rule, raising the bar for HCBS services, and reviewing the Department of Labor Home Care Rule to name a few. Direct Support Professionals were recognized and challenged to prepare themselves to become leaders in the field. Florida ARF staff came away with valuable information and gained new contacts on behalf of the Association. Staff were also able to visit several member agencies in the South Florida area which is always an enjoyable experience. Our member agencies are truly making a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities!
Florida ARF Extends a “Shout Out” to Member Agencies and Our Government Relations Team
Tallahassee, FL (April 28, 2014) On behalf of the Association staff, we say “Thank you, thank you, thank you” to our Government Relations Team and to our members who came to Tallahassee, made contacts with their Legislators, or encouraged Board Members and families to communicate their needs and the needs of the individuals they serve. Much has been accomplished this year because so many of you were involved at the right time. While we truly enjoy being your voice, the message is so much louder when so many participate. So, stay tuned and stay plugged in!
Florida ARF & Member Agencies Celebrate DD Days
Tallahassee, FL (March 18, 2014) Florida ARF and several member agencies along with other DD stakeholders gathered to celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day at the Capitol. The morning kicked off with Attorney General Pam Bondi issuing a proclamation during the Cabinet Meeting declaring March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. During the press conference, sponsored by the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council and The Arc of Florida, stakeholders expressed the need to serve the waitlist over the next few years as well as the need for a provider rate increase to ensure quality care for the individuals served. Florida ARF members and staff visited numerous legislators and their staff to convey the needs of our members as outlined in the Association’s platform. Several member agencies spoke with APD Director Barbara Palmer about the issues and needs of community agency providers. Florida ARF commends the advocacy efforts of our members!
Legislative Session Begins March 4, 2014
Tallahassee, FL (February 28, 2014) On March 4, lawmakers will come to Tallahassee to begin the 2014 Legislative Session, and their number one responsibility will be to produce a 2014 General Appropriations Act that will govern funding levels for all State entities for Fiscal Year 2014-2015. Since our members rely heavily on state revenues, the Legislative Session is a very important event. Fortunately, State revenues are trending upward but this also means many competing entities will be requesting revenues to offset funding reductions implemented over the last several years. Florida ARF member agencies are encouraged to stay involved so they can clearly communicate the needs of the individuals served to those who will appropriate funding levels. In this regard, we hope to see each and every one of you in Tallahassee over the next nine weeks along with the individuals you serve. Let’s make sure that no Florida Legislator completes the 2014 Legislative Session without understanding the needs of the individuals you serve, and that they know about the great work our member agencies perform on a daily basis! We firmly believe that once lawmakers understand the unmet need and the lack of resources available to respond to that need, the outcomes will be favorable.
Governor’s Budget Looks Promising for Community Agencies
Tallahassee, FL (January 29, 2014) Florida Governor Rick Scott released his budget recommendations for FY 14-15 today. His recommended budget looks to be positive for member agencies but work will need to be done to achieve the Association’s Platform priorities. President & CEO Suzanne Sewell stated “The Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities and its member agencies are delighted to see that Governor Scott has again responded to the needs of families and individuals who are on the waiting list for services. Also, we are pleased that the Governor is seeking funding for Supported Employment services so that individuals with developmental disabilities can realize their employment goals. Finally, we want to thank Governor Scott for participating in so many APD Town Hall meetings over the last year and for taking the time to learn about the needs of the individuals served by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Governor Scott has shown that he is a true advocate for Floridians with disabilities. His proposed budget demonstrates this commitment.” The Governor’s Budget serves as a guiding document to begin drafting the state’s annual budget, but the Florida Legislature will ultimately make funding recommendations. Below are a few key items from the Governor’s Budget.
Department of Education, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Florida ARF & RESPECT of Florida Staff Wish You Happy Holidays & Best Wishes for 2014
Tallahassee, FL (November 18, 2013) The staff of Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida wish each of our member agencies, employment centers, and stakeholders a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2014. Our Board of Directors and staff are committed to assisting each of the over 100 community agencies we represent to achieve their mission to provide quality services and supports to individuals with disabilities. Florida ARF and RESPECT thank each of you for allowing us the opportunity to represent your interests over the last year. We look forward to serving you in 2014!
Florida ARF & RESPECT of Florida Celebrate Disability Employment Awareness Month
Tallahassee, FL (October 9, 2013) Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida joined the Governor, State Agency Heads, individuals with disabilities, and employers to celebrate Disability Employment Awareness Month during the 8th Annual Exceptional Employers Award event at City Hall. Governor Rick Scott recognized seven businesses for their commitment to employing people with disabilities during the event. Governor Scott said, "These businesses have done an incredible job in providing jobs and opportunities for individuals with disabilities. We have to support families’ efforts to find jobs for their loved ones, and that’s why my Florida Families First Budget invested $500,000 to provide job training skills for individuals with disabilities. This is also why I issued an executive order to support state agency efforts to improve employment outcomes for persons with disabilities in the Sunshine State. Florida ARF and RESPECT were pleased to be able to support the event with door prizes and award plaques made by employees with disabilities from Gadsden ARC. President & CEO Suzanne Sewell was a part of stakeholders that joined the Florida Cabinet for the proclamation signing declaring October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Florida.
Florida ARF & FADSP Celebrate Direct Support Professionals (DSP) Recognition WeekThis week, September 8-14, Florida ARF & the Florida Alliance for Direct Support Professional (FADSP) are proudly celebrating DSP Recognition Week. DSPs across the state are being featured who represent the backbone of our direct care service system. Their stories clearly communicate the loving attitude and dedication of so many DSPs who give so freely of themselves to serve others.
Governor Rick Scott has signed a letter recognizing the Association for raising awareness of the DSP profession during Direct Support Professional Recognition Week. Scott stated “Direct support professionals provide a broad range of supports for many Floridians with disabilities. These dedicated professionals help citizens with disabilities by increasing their independence, keeping them connected with their family and community, and offer support and encouragement on a daily basis. Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week is a special opportunity to highlight the outstanding work of those who strive to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities.” We could not agree with Governor Scott more.
To all the DSPs across Florida, we offer a hearty “Thank you for all that you do!”