Disability Stakeholders Praise Governor’s Budget
TALLAHASSEE, FL—Florida Governor Rick Scott is recommending additional funding to serve people on the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) waiver waiting list. Governor Scott’s proposed 2013-2014 budget, Florida Families First, includes $1.1 billion for APD. A $36 million increase will allow individuals on the waiting list to enroll in the APD Home and Community-Based Services Medicaid waiver so they will receive services in their local communities. Those with the most critical needs will benefit from this new funding. Leaders of organizations that serve people with disabilities unanimously praised the governor’s budget proposal.
APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “I am so excited about Governor Scott’s decision to fund the waiver waiting list for the first time since 2005. I appreciate Governor Scott’s leadership and confidence in APD. We also thank the members of the Legislature for their ongoing support. Families, waiver support coordinators, providers, and our employees have worked very hard to bring our waiver spending under control. The agency is ready to begin helping those with the most critical needs on the waiting list in the coming year.”
Family Care Council Florida Chairperson Jean Sherman said, “I am delighted and encouraged to learn about Governor Scott’s proposed request to provide funding for waiver services for those individuals on the APD waiting list that are in the most critical need. The ability to receive needed services will be life-changing for these families and this new funding is a welcome first step in meeting the community needs of all Florida residents with developmental disabilities.”
Phil Pearson, waiting list parent and past chairperson of the Family Care Council Florida, said, “What a great day for Florida and what a great day for Florida’s disability community. Hats off to everyone involved! This waiting list funding will be a godsend to all of those folks waiting for services. They will now be able to rest assured that their children will be properly taken care of. Granted, this won’t fund every situation, but it is a good start, addressing the most urgent cases. Thank you, Governor Scott, for this great day in Florida’s history.”
Janice Phillips is a service coordinator for people with developmental disabilities, and she is also the chairperson of their association. Phillips said, “The Association of Support Coordination Agencies of Florida would like to thank Governor Scott for his continuing support of people with developmental disabilities. His recent decision to include funding in his budget to provide services for those on the waiting list demonstrates his commitment to Florida’s most vulnerable citizens. We are excited about the possibility of helping individuals with support needed to work and live productively in their communities.”
Governor Scott’s budget proposal also includes about $2.5 million to assist people on the waiver waiting list who have indicated that they want to go to work. The funding will pay for job internships and supported employment job coaches for about 1,000 people with developmental disabilities.
“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 Association of Rehabilitation Facilities Executive Director Suzanne Sewell.
The ARC of Florida Executive Director Deborah Linton said, “These additional funds will allow our chapters to protect the health and safety of more Floridians with intellectual disabilities and in many cases, fulfill their dreams of securing jobs and contributing to their community. It will benefit the individual and the economy.”
Florida Developmental Disabilities Council Executive Director Debra Dowds said, “I am thrilled that Governor Scott is working to provide funding for people on the waiting list. Individuals with developmental disabilities need ongoing supports to be fully integrated into their local communities. This money is critical to helping people with crucial needs. The funding specifically for supported employment and job internships will enable many individuals with developmental disabilities to earn wages in competitive integrated employment, moving them to greater self-sufficiency.”
Governor Scott is recommending in his budget proposal a one-time appropriation of $40 million ($17 million in state funding, $23 million federal match) to pay off the waiver deficit from prior fiscal years. With this funding, APD is projecting to be operating within its appropriation for the first time since being made its own agency.
Additionally, the budget proposal contains about $2 million for facility maintenance which will include improvements to William J. Rish Park on Cape San Blas in Gulf County. Rish Park is a state park that was built and designed for people with disabilities. The facilities on the bay side of the park were damaged many years ago by a hurricane and have been unusable by people with disabilities.
Governor Scott is recommending $1.4 million for a new APD data system that will provide service-specific information from providers regarding service delivery dates and progress, as well as better verification that services were delivered at the times and locations that were authorized by the agency. Additionally, this data system will include an electronic client central record that will provide the agency with information that can be used to more efficiently and effectively serve individuals with developmental disabilities by providing electronic information that will track provider services and progress for the client.
To view the complete list of Governor Scott’s budget recommendations, visit http://www.floridafamiliesfirst.com.
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).