JACKSONVILLE, FL—Today, Governor Rick Scott visited Pine Castle in Jacksonville to celebrate $36 million in funding for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) waiver waiting list. Disability stakeholders stood with Governor Scott in support of the increase in funding for APD in the 2013-2014 state budget. Hundreds of people were at Pine Castle today to hear the good news from Governor Scott.
Governor Scott said, “I want every Floridian, including those with disabilities, to be able to follow their dreams. By investing $36 million in funding for APD for the first time in eight years, individuals with disabilities will be able to receive services in their communities and more people will be able to get the skills they need to have a job.”
The Florida Families First budget includes $1.1 billion for APD, including for the first time in eight years, a $36 million investment to 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 individuals with the most critical needs will benefit from the new funding.
The Florida Families First budget also includes 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 end the current fiscal year on June 30 within its appropriation for the first time in years. Leaders of organizations that serve people with disabilities unanimously praised the approved budget.
APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “For the first time in eight years, we will move more than 750 people off the APD waiting list so that they will receive the services they need to participate in their community and develop skills to find employment. I want to thank Governor Scott and members of the Legislature for their support of our agency. All stakeholders and employees worked together to bring our waiver spending under control, and we are ready to begin helping those with the most urgent needs beginning July 1.”
Karen Prewitt, Family Care Council Area 4 Chairperson said, “As parents of a child on the APD waiting list, my husband and I are thrilled that steps are finally being taken to address the need for services, and recognizing the thousands of families on the APD waiting list. While our son Caleb is yet very young, we realize the importance of the waiting list and waiver, and the assistance that is being made available to so many more families with this budget approval. We are just one of many families in the state of Florida who have their own story and a loved one who has needs. This move is such a positive experience and we are thrilled, for the first time in many years, all those families on the waiting list can have so much more hope in getting the help they need. Thank you, Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature!”
Pine Castle, Inc. Executive Director Jon May said, “On behalf of the 400 participants at Pine Castle and those on the waiting list for services in the state of Florida, I want to extend a sincere thank you to Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature for adding $36 Million in funding to the Agency for Persons with Disabilities to serve additional persons in need from the waiting list. We also appreciate Governor Scott visiting our center today to celebrate this new funding. Pine Castle is where people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities enjoy opportunities to learn, work, and connect to the community.”
Lou Ogburn, Family Care Council Area Two Chairperson, said, “The Family Care Council and I commend Governor Scott for remembering those persons with disabilities and putting them as a priority in his budget this year. This was a very good thing and certainly the right thing to do.”
The new budget also includes about $500,000 to assist people on the waiver waiting list who have indicated that they want to go to work. The funding will pay for supported employment services to help 200 people with developmental disabilities obtain and maintain jobs and internships.
Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (Florida ARF) President and Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Sewell said, “Our membership is thrilled that Governor Scott and lawmakers truly placed Florida families first this year while balancing the need to invest in economic development issues and improvements to Florida’s educational system. We are delighted with the outcome of this budget and applaud all who supported the great initiatives within it. We are also pleased that the governor has visited so many community provider agencies to share his Florida Families First budget and to express his commitment to support job development opportunities for individuals with disabilities.”
The Florida Families First budget invests in a 3 percent raise to providers of adult day training services in the Home and Community Based Services Medicaid waiver program. Providers offer individuals up to six hours a day of activities that support the individual in daily routines of the community, including training in the areas of self-help, adaptive, and social skills.
Sylvia James-Miller, Vice Chair for the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council and an advocate from Marion County said, “This is a huge step in the right direction for Floridians with disabilities. The increase in funding for Adult Day Training providers alone is a valuable service that has not seen an increase in a number of years. We are very happy.”
Additionally, the budget contains $1.4 million for improvements to William J. Rish Park on Cape San Blas in Gulf County. Rish Park is a state park, operated by APD that was built and designed for people with disabilities. The facilities on the bay side of the park were damaged years ago by a hurricane and have been unusable. This new money will allow the entire park to be available to people with disabilities to enjoy.
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).