Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities

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Cabinet to Declare Disability Employment Month

TALLAHASSEE, FL— Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will introduce a resolution at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting declaring October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Florida.

Department of Health employee, Jonathan Show, will address Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet on the importance of including people with disabilities in the workforce.

The Cabinet meeting will begin at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, September 23, in the Cabinet meeting room on the lower level of the Capitol Building.

Along with Show, leaders from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Vocational Rehabilitation, Blind Services, Veterans’ Affairs, Governor’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities, and the Able Trust will be there to accept the resolution.

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and work in their communities.  The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit APDcares.org or call toll-free 1‑866‑APD‑CARES (1‑866‑273‑2273).


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Florida First to Help Military Families with Waivers – State will Provide Services to those Transferred to Florida

TALLAHASSEE, FL—Florida is the first state in the country to offer Medicaid waiver services to active military families deployed from another state where they were already receiving services. The Florida Legislature passed and Governor Rick Scott signed the 2014-2015 It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget which created this program.

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) provides Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Medicaid waiver services to individuals with developmental disabilities so that they may participate in their local communities. The Medicaid waiver services are funded with state and federal tax dollars. All states provide Medicaid waiver services, however, because they are very popular programs there is a waiting list in most states including Florida.

Military families are frequently transferred and as a result their family member with a developmental disability loses Medicaid waiver services they were receiving at their previous post. This new program will prevent that from happening and will be a huge help to individuals with disabilities and their families transferring to Florida. It is receiving unanimous praise from disability stakeholders.

APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “I am very excited that Florida is the first state in the country to offer this benefit to military families.  Men and women in the military sacrifice many things to serve our country. Offering community services to their loved one with a developmental disability is the right thing for our state to do. This idea came from people who attended our APD Military Town Hall meeting cohosted by Governor Scott at Eglin Air Force Base earlier this year.  I am very happy Governor Scott and the Legislature took the nationwide lead to enact this measure to benefit military families.”

Eglin Air Force Base Airman & Family Readiness Center Director Mark Wilke said, “We appreciate Florida’s plan, which will reduce delays for military families with members who have disabilities so they may receive the APD Medicaid waiver when relocating to Florida. It will be a tremendous help.”

Family Care Council Florida Vice-Chairperson Pauline Lipps said, “I sincerely thank Governor Scott and the Florida legislators for being the first in the country to allow Military families, who are transferred to Florida, the ability to enroll in Florida’s Medicaid waiver program. The continuity of services for individuals with developmental disabilities in military families will help them realize a smooth transition to Florida while continuing to serve our country and preserve our freedom.”

“The Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (Florida ARF) says thank you to Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature for passing legislation that will make Florida the first state in the country to allow military families who are already receiving waiver services in another state and are transferred to Florida to enroll in Florida’s Medicaid waiver. What a fitting way to serve those who give so much to serve our great country!  We hope to see similar legislation in all states within the near future,” said Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities Executive Director Suzanne Sewell.

The Association of Support Coordination Agencies of Florida chairperson Janice Phillips said, “Our association fully supports Governor Scott and Legislature’s initiative to provide support to those military families who serve our country. Military families are stressed with frequent transfers. These families with members with developmental disabilities are particularly challenged. This groundbreaking legislation will help alleviate the hardship of added bureaucracy when these military families move to Florida, often leaving behind their sources of paid and natural support in other states. Florida’s willingness to facilitate assistance for service members’ loved ones with developmental disabilities is not only very commendable and deeply appreciated, but will help our economy by integrating them more rapidly into the community.”

Area 2 Family Care Council Chairperson Lou Ogburn said, “It is a good thing to allow Florida’s military families to continue on the Medicaid waiver program if they were on it in another state when transferred. The military personnel usually have no say in where they are stationed and families need the consistency that the waiver provides their loved one.”

APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and work in their communities.  The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit APDcares.org or call toll-free 1‑866‑APD‑CARES (1‑866‑273‑2273).


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Family Care Council Wins Award

On July 23, The Family Care Council Suncoast Region was honored with the Tom Ulvenes Outstanding Community Service Award at the Annual ADA Disability EXPO Advocacy Awards Ceremony and Community Forum. The event was hosted by the Alliance for Citizens with Disabilities Hillsborough County.

The award is given for outstanding accomplishments and contributions to the Hillsborough County community through courageous advocacy, education, and diligent persistence in pursuing goals which improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

“This was a great honor for all Family Care Council Members, this award will reside in the Regional APD Office in Tampa for all of us. It means a lot for the entire Suncoast Region Family Care Council to be recognized,” said Family Care Council Florida Chair Pauline Lipps.

Family Care Council members Nancy Simmons, Patricia Oglesby, Ann Graybeal, Joanna Rydzewski, Kathy Colombrito, and Peter Ciccarello also attended the event.

 

Check out this story and more – in The Champion newsletter!


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An Amazing Bank Teller by James Vidrine

Rachel Doeble is a determined young woman who pursues her personal and career goals, and achieves them. Her career in the banking industry began in 2004, and she has been working full-time since June 2011 at Regions Bank in North Naples.

Doeble receives services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) in Naples.

She is married to her husband, John, and with his three children from a previous marriage, plus her young daughter, they created a large family with four children. She truly has full days.

Things have not always been this bright for Doeble. She entered this world as a three month premature infant. At her birth, she tipped the scale at less than three pounds. She spent the first six weeks of her life in the hospital, gaining weight and increasing her strength, so she could go home.

Doeble’s parents, however, soon noticed problems with her development. In her 15th month, her pediatrician broke the difficult news to her parents. Her delayed development was due to cerebral palsy. This news, although a shock, did not deter them whatsoever. Her parents worked with her at home to master the developmental skills that other toddlers and preschool children seemed to achieve without effort.

When Doeble entered kindergarten, the work she and her parents had engaged in for years paid off handsomely. Rachel was able to walk independently, with some difficulty at times, but without the need for a wheelchair. She was described by others at school, as a very friendly and a likeable youngster, with excellent cognitive and vocabulary skills. Her teachers also noted she could be stubborn at times.

Perhaps it was her stubbornness that contributed to her ongoing ability to engage the world with a positive attitude and determination to succeed. Doeble recalls, “As a child I had difficulty maneuvering around in school. I had to learn how to ask for help when I needed it, but also how to decline offers for assistance that I did not need or want.”

Doeble’s positive and caring attitude and her determination to succeed have not gone unnoticed by her supervisors at Regions Bank. Her direct supervisor, Head Teller Kathy Wessling describes Rachel’s work as amazing and fabulous. She depends on Rachel as her right hand at work. Wessling said, “Rachel is a very inspiring person. For someone that has a disability, she does not hold back on what she needs to do or what she wants to do. She has no fear.” Bank Manager Todd Ruggeri adds, “Rachel has the best outlook on life. She never gets upset or discouraged.”

APD Human Services Counselor Jose Delvalle is Doeble’s Support Coordinator. Delvalle said, “When I first met Rachel, I saw a person who wants to achieve her goals. She is a capable and an independent person who can handle any situation with thoughtfulness.”

Doeble is a living a success story. Not only does she work full-time as a bank teller, but she is also a wife, mother, step-mother, and provides a loving home for her family. Doeble wants to encourage others that have a disability to be persistent and persevere through difficulties and roadblocks, to reach their dreams. Doeble said, “Don’t let negative thoughts get in your way. Play to your own strengths and this will assist you. Never be afraid to ask for help, especially at your workplace.”


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People First! Advocate Award

The Ridge Area Arc’s People First! Advocate Award honors an individual, group or organization which consistently demonstrate a leadership role in the advocacy of people with developmental disabilities. Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Employment Liaison Jenny Sykes was presented with the Advocate Award on May 16 in Avon Park. Ridge Area Arc CEO Rhonda Beckman said “She is an exemplary advocate for APD customers throughout Hardee, Highlands, and Polk counties.”

Sykes coordinates multiple activities of agencies, service organizations, businesses, and providers to champion, educate, and promote hiring practices that target individuals with developmental disabilities. She works very closely with Ridge Area Arc’s supported employment staff to identify barriers and various misconceptions that employers may have about hiring individuals with disabilities.

Sykes also works to facilitate open lines of communication with family members and other natural supports of APD customers so they understand the Social Security Work Incentives and benefits are still retained. It goes without saying that her tenacity has paid off. She has provided the foundation to cultivate new business partnerships, develop community awareness, and helped employers understand the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities.

Jenny Sykes wins award

Jenny Sykes wins award

Jenny Sykes is recognized by the Arc

Jenny Sykes is recognized by the Arc


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APD Reviewing iBudget Decision

TALLAHASSEE —The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) is reviewing the decision this week by the First District Court of Appeal (DCA) which found that the rules used in implementing the iBudget Florida waiver are invalid, thus overturning an earlier decision by the Division of Administrative Hearings.

APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “Our goal is always to protect the health and safety of the individuals we serve. We are evaluating the effects, if any, on APD customers and the financial impact of this decision. We hope to minimize any changes this ruling will require for people served by APD.”

The DCA decision states that all APD customers should receive their iBudget algorithm amount as their cost plan amount. Therefore, APD will need to go through the rulemaking process again to comply with the court’s decision.

About 30,000 APD customers use the iBudget Florida Medicaid waiver to direct and receive Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS). The HCBS waiver is funded by state and federal tax dollars to help people with developmental disabilities live and participate in their local communities.

iBudget Florida is a new way to deliver Medicaid waiver services. It has been approved by both the Florida Legislature and the federal government. The iBudget waiver provides greater flexibility to choose services that best meet the customers’ needs given their unique situations.

iBudget Florida is designed to make the funding process fair and equitable for all Medicaid waiver customers. It has increased opportunities for customers to direct their own care.

Some other customer benefits of iBudget Florida are:

  • Ability to reallocate funds not spent on services in one month for future service needs within a fiscal year
  • Access to dental services that were not available in the former tier waiver
  • Support coordinators able to use iBudget technology to reduce paperwork requirements and communicate efficiently with providers and APD, and
  • Greater opportunity for APD to use new funds to serve people on the Medicaid waiver waiting list.

APD annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with the developmental disabilities of autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, spina bifida, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information on iBudget Florida, visit iBudgetFlorida.org. To learn more about the agency, call 1-866-APD-CARES  (1-866-273-2273) or visit APDcares.org.


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Governor Scott Announces Elimination of Critical Needs Waitlist for Persons with Disabilities

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced all individuals with critical needs who have been on the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) waiting list as of July 1 will be offered enrollment in the Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Medicaid waiver. Approximately 1,200 individuals will receive enrollment letters from APD in the next two weeks.

 

Governor Scott said, “We’re committed to providing every Florida family the opportunity to live the American Dream – and this year’s It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget invested another $20 million to move all remaining individuals with critical needs off of the waiting list, which is the first time this has happened in the history of the agency. This is the second year in a row we’ve been able to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities and their families.”

 

These individuals join about 1,600 people who were offered waiver services last fiscal year. Additionally, the agency will continue to enroll foster children with developmental disabilities into the waiver that are adopted or reunified with family members.

 

APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “I am so happy the agency is able to keep moving people off the waiting list so they may receive waiver services in their communities. I thank Governor Scott and members of the Legislature for this important funding for the waiting list and their support of our agency. We are making a difference in people’s lives.”

 

After individuals accept the HCBS Medicaid waiver enrollment, they must select a waiver support coordinator who will work with them to develop a plan to address needed services. APD customers also select which waiver providers they want to deliver their services.

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