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.

Florida ARF Joins Governor & Florida Cabinet to Highlight Program to Match Floridians with Disabilities to Jobs

AbilitiesWork.jpgAbilitiesWork2.jpgTallahassee, FL (December 10, 2014) Florida ARF joined other stakeholders as Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet highlighted efforts to assist employers in finding and hiring talented individuals with disabilities. During the Cabinet Meeting, a presentation included an overview of the new Abilities Work Web Portal and Help Desk to help link employers to job seekers who have disabilities. This initiative was recommended by Governor Scott’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities.  Presenters also discussed the commitment among multiple interagency partners involved with the Employment First Initiative who are working to prioritize employment options for individuals with disabilities to help them achieve greater independence and self-fulfillment as required by Governor Scott’s Executive Order 13-284.  The Governor’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), the Florida Department of Education’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Division of Blind Services, and Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Department of Children and Families’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Program, the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, the Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, and CareerSource Florida, are all participants in the Employment First Initiative.  President & CEO Suzanne Sewell commented: “On behalf of the membership of Florida ARF and the RESPECT of Florida program, we are pleased to be a part of Florida’s Employment First Initiative and are excited to see the positive outcomes that are being generated by the partner agencies.  Accomplishments such as the Abilities Work Portal and Help Desk demonstrate the participants’ commitment to creating real jobs for people with disabilities.”

RESPECT of Florida Cosponsors Hiring Abilities 2014 Symposium and Job Fair

HiringAbilities2014.jpgTallahassee, FL (November 3, 2014) RESPECT of Florida joined other stakeholders in cosponsoring the Hiring Abilities 2014 Symposium and Career Fair in Jacksonville, FL.  Several RESPECT partner Employment Centers and staff were in attendance during the symposium presentations and breakout sessions.  The event was well attended with participants hearing about many success stories and tips regarding employment of individuals with disabilities.  Following the symposium and lunch, individuals with abilities participated in the job fair.   “The level of community support and private business involvement was indeed impressive, and we hope to replicate this model in other parts of the state,” stated Florida ARF President & CEO / Interim RESPECT of Florida Executive Director Suzanne Sewell. 

Florida ARF, RESPECT of Florida, & Members Participate in Disability Employment Awareness Events

Gasden_DisabilityEmploymentDay2014.jpgTallahassee, FL (October 1, 2014) Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida joined State Agency Heads, individuals with disabilities, and employers to celebrate Disability Employment Awareness Month during the 9th Annual Exceptional Employers Award event at City Hall.  Seven organizations that hire people with disabilities were recognized by the state of Florida for being exceptional employers of people with disabilities.  President & CEO Suzanne Sewell was a featured speaker at the event explaining how Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida are promoting employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.  Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida were pleased to support the event with award plaques made by employees with disabilities from Gadsden ARC.  Individuals from Gadsden ARC were on hand to show off the plaques they produce through the RESPECT program.  

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

FADSP-Logo-smTallahassee, FL (September 7, 2014) This week, September 7-13, 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 DSPs who give so freely of themselves to serve others.  

Governor Rick Scott has 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 close, trusted relationship with individuals; assist individuals with their most personal needs, on a daily basis; provide essential support to help keep individuals with disabilities connected to the family and community; and, they enable individuals with disabilities to live meaningful, productive lives.”  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!

August – A Very Good Month for Advocacy Activity

FDDC.jpgTallahassee, FL (August 30, 2014) We are pleased to report that during the month of August Florida ARF was busy advocating for services and supports to respond to the needs of individuals with disabilities.  Florida ARF worked with several stakeholder groups, and in particular with the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, to review strategies and ideas on how Florida can develop more community based options for children residing in nursing homes.  Also, we met with stakeholders from the Council to address the following concerns:  prevention of abuse and neglect for individuals with disabilities; how to address the Agency for Persons with Disabilities waitlist; and, Employment First partnership efforts coordinated by the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council.   We conclude the month by observing that Floridians with disabilities are fortunate to have so many advocates working to promote positive changes in Florida’s health and human services systems.

Florida ARF Members Begin Developing 2015 Platform

Group Photo.jpgTampa, 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

FamilyCafe2014.jpgTallahassee, 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

ANCOR.jpgMiami, 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

FL-Capitol.jpgTallahassee, 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!


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