By Lynne Daw, APD Northwest Region Manager
Ah, the month of June! While school kids are literally counting the days until the start of summer vacation, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) and other state agencies focus on June as the end of the State fiscal year. This “New Years’ Eve” provides a great opportunity to look at all of the current year’s accomplishments, as well as a great time for setting goals for the upcoming year. There’s been so much to celebrate!
Jobs, jobs, jobs! One of the agency’s priorities is providing opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities to become competitively employed. We are thrilled to report that, through the agency’s Employment Enhancement Project (EEP), 45 individuals on the waiting list, in their last year of high school, found jobs through this funding in the Northwest Region and several others are currently involved with internships that are leading them toward paid employment. This exceeded the region’s goal and we’re not done yet! Our employment liaisons have been actively working with our supported employment providers and with all of the school systems within the region to identify transitioning students who are ready to graduate and get to work! Through community partnerships, the region held Job Clubs, set up mock interviews, hosted resume writing workshops, and participated in multiple transition fairs to educate students on the importance of working and how to be job-ready upon graduation. In addition to the students involved in the EEP program, the region currently has more than 750 people who are working! Our own Katrina Washington, employment liaison, was recently honored with the Making a Difference Award on May 7 at the Visions Conference in Orlando for her ongoing commitment to supporting employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The award was presented by the Florida Division on Career Development and Transition.
Our agency is committed to helping individuals on the waiting list. This fiscal year, the waiting list coordinators in the Northwest Region, under the strong leadership of supervisor Sharon Stephens, have been able to provide services to over 450 individuals on the waiting list.
Have you seen the agency’s Resource Directory lately? If not, I would encourage you to check it out! Annette Zeeb, the Northwest Region’s community liaison, has identified countless additional resources in the past year that were added to this comprehensive resource database.
We so appreciate the wonderful partnership with our local Family Care Councils (FCCs). Each has active members who are committed to supporting families in our region, as well as providing valuable feedback to the agency. This year, the FCCs sponsored several great educational workshops for families and self-advocates and also helped provide some families with the opportunity to attend this year’s Family Café conference! This is always a popular event and the FCCs look forward to hearing from the attendees on what they learned during this action-packed weekend. We also hope that you will commit to attending the upcoming FCC-sponsored workshop with nationally renowned speaker Kathie Snow, scheduled for Tuesday, June 16, at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Florida. If you’ve not had the chance to hear Ms. Snow speak, you’ll definitely want to make plans to attend this exciting event!
All employees look forward to the time when they can retire. The region has already had two employees retire earlier this year and we are ending the fiscal year with two of our longest standing employees, Pat Green in our Pensacola office and Bonnie Williams in our Marianna office, ending their careers. Collectively, these two women served the State of Florida in excess of 73 years! We can’t imagine an APD without these two dedicated workers!
While finishing out this year, we are already looking forward to an exciting new year. We are diligently working with some of our residential providers in developing new behavior focus and intensive behavioral homes to enable some of our customers to return back to their home region to be closer to their families and friends.
Our regional work streams are developing a quality improvement process to identify patterns and trends in service delivery to better identify ways that we can collaborate with our providers in improving services to our customers and identifying opportunities for improvement within our own internal processes.
Finally, we are looking at additional ways to inform the public about our agency, identify students earlier in their school career who meet APD eligibility, and find ways that we can improve our responsiveness to individuals on the waiting list.
The successes we had this year were possible because of the amazing team of dedicated employees I have the honor of working with each day. They consistently come to work with a great attitude and are “raring to go!” We can’t wait to see what is in store for us next year!