Governor Releases FY 2016-17 Budget Recommendations

FloridaFirstBanner.jpgTallahassee, FL (November 23, 2015)  Today, the Office of Governor Rick Scott released the Florida First Budget which contains the Governor’s funding recommendations for FY 2016-17.  Within the budget, we were pleased to see additional funding to serve 700 people from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) waitlist.  Also, funding was recommended for reinstatement of the Adults with Disabilities program at $10 million, and provisions were included that would allow APD to cover increased service costs for changes resulting from recent federal Department of Labor rule changes.  Even so, community agencies that provide iBudget and ICF/IID Medicaid funded services were disappointed that the budget did not contain much needed rate relief.  For more information about provider rate relief needs, please access our Grassroots webpage.

Florida Cabinet Declares October Disability Employment Awareness Month

DisabilityAwarenessMonth2015.jpgTallahassee, FL (October 2015) Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi introduced a resolution at the September 29 Cabinet meeting declaring October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Florida.  Leaders from APD, Department of Economic Opportunity, Vocational Rehabilitation, Blind Services, Veterans’ Affairs, The Arc of Florida, The Able Trust, Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, and the Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities were there to accept the resolution.  Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) employee Stacia Woolverton addressed Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet on the importance of including people with disabilities in the workforce.  Florida ARF and other advocates are pleased to celebrate this very important month because it recognizes the accomplishments of individuals with disabilities and the many businesses who assist them with achievement of their employment goals.

Florida ARF & FADSP Celebrate Direct Support Professionals (DSP) Recognition Week

FADSP-Logo-smTallahassee, FL (September 19, 2015) During the week of September 13-19, Florida ARF & the Florida Alliance for Direct Support Professional (FADSP) proudly celebrated DSP Recognition Week.  DSPs across the state were featured who represent the backbone of our direct care service system.  Their stories clearly communicated the loving attitude and dedication of DSPs who give so freely of themselves to serve others.  

Governor Rick Scott signed a proclamation recognizing the Direct Support Profession during Direct Support Professional Recognition Week.  Scott stated “Direct support professionals are the primary providers of publicly-funded long term supports and services for millions of individuals.  DSPs must build a respectful and trusting relationship with those in their care; provide essential support to help keep individuals with disabilities connected to the family and community; and, are key in supporting individuals with disabilities to live happy, healthy lives in their community.”  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!”

Florida ARF Meets with APD and Other Stakeholders to Discuss Provider Rate Needs


Tallahassee, FL (August 21, 2015) On August 14th, Florida ARF and other stakeholders met with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) to review proposals by provider agencies that address the need for iBudget services rate increases.  As pointed out by President & CEO Suzanne Sewell and others, the reimbursement rates for these services are on average 14% lower than the 2003 rates.  Other advocates such as The Arc of Florida, Florida Association of Support Coordinators, the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, and the Family Care Council provided testimony and support for the need to address rate increases for key iBudget waiver services so that Florida can ensure a strong provider network with quality choice options for all individuals served.  APD staff commented on the need for providers to demonstrate the severity of need and to identify performance outcome measures that would demonstrate improved service delivery if the rates were increased..

By August 17th, providers demonstrated to APD the rate relief needed for three vital iBudget Waiver Services including: Residential Habilitation, Adult Day Training, and Personal Supports.  The request for the rate increases would total about $55 million in state funding.  However, stakeholders agreed to cut the request in half and seek a two-year phase in which would cost the state about $27.7 million and would draw down about $41.6 million in federal funding.

Florida ARF and The Arc of Florida representatives worked collaboratively to identify performance outcome measures and the Return on Investment the state would realize.  According to Florida ARF President & CEO Suzanne Sewell, “The provider representatives who worked together on the rate reinstatement issue produced compelling documentation and information that proves the need for iBudget rate reinstatement.  Considering the fact that the state now has 2,000 fewer iBudget providers than it had seven years ago (about a 30% decrease) is alarming.  Florida must address the Medicaid provider rate issue.”  The pictorial graphic shows that the current iBudget rate system is reaching a critical point.




Florida ARF & RESPECT of Florida Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the ADA

ADA25th.jpgTallahassee, FL (July 24, 2015) Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida joined with State Agencies, Local Dignitaries, and other stakeholders to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Events were held across the state during the month of July to celebrate the advancements that have been made to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities.  In Tallahassee, the event began with hundreds of people marching down Adams Street to City Hall.  At City Hall, participants heard from a variety of speakers, including nationally known disability advocate John Kemp.  During his comments John Kemp said, “The passage of the ADA 25 years ago began a transformation in the way all of us think about people with disabilities and how we can be included in all societal activities.  Real, meaningful employment remains our biggest obstacle; once the employer community views us as tremendous assets, we can start buying more goods and services, homes, cars, and generally becoming stronger members of our American economic communities with our paychecks.  That day will come, I know, as the best talent in the world resides in our own backyards – Americans with disabilities!”  Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida look forward to the advancements that will occur in the next 25 years.

Florida ARF Celebrates the Life of A True Advocate

KatiePorta.jpgTallahassee, FL (June 18, 2015) This week, Florida ARF and the I/DD community have a very heavy heart as our dear friend, advocate, and former Board Member Katie Porta lost her hard fought battle with cancer.  Katie was smart, direct, and effective in her advocacy efforts on behalf of Floridians with disabilities!  She guided the Quest program for over 32 years, and built communities in both Orlando and Tampa where individuals with disabilities achieve their goals to live, learn, work, and play.   In 2013, Katie was named the Orlando Sentinel’s 2013 Central Floridian of the Year.  Katie was a long time Board Member of Florida ARF and served as our Government Relations Forum Chair and Board Chair leading up to her retirement.   No words can adequately express our sadness at Katie’s passing or our gratitude for the opportunity to work alongside her.  So long Katie, and thank you for being the leader and mentor that we will all remember! 


Session 2015A Coming – iBudget Rate Reinstatement Still Needed!

Rate Reinstatement Logo-2.jpgTallahassee, FL (May 2015) During May the Association and its members are typically assessing the outcome of the legislative session and celebrating laws and funding decisions deemed responsive to the needs of individuals with disabilities.  However, the 2015 Legislative Session ended without passage of a state budget for next fiscal year  because of disagreement about Medicaid expansion and uncertainty about federal funding for indigent medical care.  A Special Session (2015A) has been called for June 1–20, 2015 for the purpose of passing the 2015 General Appropriations Act which will govern funding of state expenditures for FY 15-16.  As the Special Session begins, our member agencies still need rate reinstatement relief for Medicaid Waiver service reimbursement rates that are on average 14% lower than they were in 2003!  We ask all Florida legislators to support rate reinstatement for Medicaid Waiver providers funded through the Agency for Persons with Disabilities! 

Why We Walked

Why We Walked.jpgTallahassee, FL (April 22, 2015) On April 22, representatives from Florida ARF participated in the LAURENSKIDS.ORG annual walk.  This year marks the sixth anniversary of Lauren Book’s 1,500-mile Walk in My Shoes journey across the state of Florida.  Over the past six years, tens of thousands of Floridians, including thousands of survivors, have walked to show their support for Lauren’s mission to end child sexual abuse and help survivors heal.  Walk in My Shoes has given a voice to an experience shared by 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys in the U.S.  Armed with the knowledge that 95% of child sexual abuse is preventable through education and awareness, Lauren embarks on a 1,500-mile “Walk in My Shoes” walk across the state of Florida to empower survivors, educate communities from Key West to Tallahassee and advocate for legislative change.  Statistics regarding abuse of children with disabilities indicate they are 3.44 times more likely to be a victim of some type of abuse compared to children without disabilities (Sullivan & Knutson, 2000).  The abuse of children with developmental disabilities is even higher, and that is why we walked – to support our DD Family and to create awareness regarding this concern.  Thank you Lauren’s Kids for creating a social movement to address this serious problem!

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

DD Microenterprise 2015.jpgTallahassee, FL (March 13, 2015)  March is Developmental Disabilities month and Florida ARF has been busy ensuring everyone is aware of this important month.  On March 5, we joined with our friends at The Arc of Florida and the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council to celebrate DD Awareness Day at the Capitol.  On the same day, Florida ARF dba RESPECT of Florida, awarded its first ever Micro-Enterprise grant to a recipient who developed a creative microenterprise proposal with the Arc of Jacksonville, a RESPECT of Florida Employment Center.  

DD Resolution 2015.jpgOn March 10, DD Stakeholders gathered at Florida’s Capitol to witness Attorney General Pam Bondi, Governor Rick Scott, and other members of the Florida Cabinet present a resolution proclaiming March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in Florida. Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Barbara Palmer accepted the resolution on behalf of the 30,000 individuals served by the Agency.  And even more, as the 2015 Legislative Session completes its second week, several bills have been introduced that provide employment and educational opportunities for individuals with “unique abilities.”  With two more weeks left in the month, we look forward to even more activities that will create further awareness of developmental disability issues.


Florida ARF Hosts Winter Meeting in Clearwater Beach

Kim Smoak from AHCA presenting at ICF/IID Forum MeetingClearwater Beach, FL (February 11-12, 2015)  The Florida ARF membership met during February to conduct its annual winter meeting.  The meeting featured guest presentations and member discussion on several topics within the Community Supports, Employment, Government Relations, ICF/IID, and Legal Advocacy Forums.  Representatives from the American Network of Community Options (ANCOR) were in attendance and provided updates on federal legislation, rulemaking, and litigation.  State Agency representatives from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Agency for Health Care Administration, and Agency for Persons with Disabilities were also in attendance to provide program updates and answer member questions.  The Delmarva Foundation provided information on Quality Assurance monitoring amendments for the iBudget home and community based services waiver.  Attendance was good and many attendees commented the information provided was helpful and pertinent to their day-to-day program operations.  The next Florida ARF membership meeting is scheduled for June 10-11, 2015.  Photo: Kim Smoak from AHCA presenting at ICF/IID Forum Meeting

Florida ARF Welcomes New RESPECT of Florida Executive Director

rmusick.jpgTallahassee, FL (January 12, 2015) Florida ARF is pleased to announce Ryland Musick has been appointed as the RESPECT of Florida Executive Director.  Musick worked for RESPECT approximately 30 years ago starting in the marketing department and moving up to the Director of Industrial Development.  He has a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Virginia Tech and has served as the Executive Director for other nonprofit agencies as well as running his own businesses.  Most recently, he was employed with the Department of Children & Families as an Operations Consultant.  Ryland brings a strong management, business, and administrative background to the RESPECT program and  has experience working with government agencies, businesses, and professional associations.  We look forward to many exciting new developments within the RESPECT program under Ryland's leadership.

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