By Evelyn Alvarez, Southern Region Manager
We welcome our new Deputy Regional Operations Manager (ROM) Sherab Chodron to the Southern Region of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). The region is very excited to have her join our team. Her background as an attorney with a master’s degree in public health management, and mental health experience is impressive. Sherab worked in Monroe County for the last 17 years, and her professional relationships and networks are a significant asset to jump start provider development, and further develop community resources for our customers. She’s blended very well with the team, and has a huge heart to make a difference. Her passion truly complements the region.
Having a deputy ROM on board is a change of pace for the region. Together, we are laying the ground work to further strengthen the regional office. With Sherab on board, we now have the opportunity to re-engineer how we do business and share more of the managerial duties. This allows us to increase APD’s presence in the community on a higher level, working with the Dade delegation, chambers, and local boards for greater advocacy, and to promote more community partnership opportunities.
We embrace this change as a positive initiative which gives us a new perspective that infuses new energy and empowers the staff.
The Southern Region team is phenomenal and I am very honored to be amongst an amazing group of professionals! We do our best when even in the most difficult circumstances. It is during these challenging times that we give the best of ourselves. Our team unites and stays focused on what matters most – our APD customers. The level of professionalism and synergy is unmatched; everyone steps up as evidenced when the region experienced a high number of employee vacancies for an extended period of time. As a team we managed to make it through while maintaining the health and safety of the individuals we serve. Today, we have filled many of our vacant positions giving us a more robust workforce, and the opportunity to bring on some excellent new personnel.
The State Office staff is an integral part of our successes, and are always available to us, providing their support and guidance. We value and appreciate their professionalism, and the confidence that they have in our commitment to public service.
I credit how far we have come, not only to the incredible work that is being done throughout the regional offices, but also to Director Palmer’s leadership and that of the executive management team. We congratulate Director Palmer on her Senate confirmation as APD’s Director. Director Palmer’s consistent leadership continues to reinforce and establish our agency’s credibility. She has led us through some difficult times and we have prevailed.
Spirit to Serve
We are here to help, we are here to serve, and we are here to make your life better!
We want to reassure anyone who walks through our doors that there is no wrong door. Helping them understand that we are able to assist them not only within our agency resources, but also by extending interagency collaborations and other community partnerships.
Our focus is making people’s lives better by helping them navigate the system and simplifying the process. It is about our staff having the spirit to serve our customers and families.
This is exemplified by the team’s dedicated, unwavering commitment, and compassion. Every member of the Southern Region team makes a difference by taking on countless additional assignments, and working to ensure people have opportunities in their communities. This is a dedicated group and we are here for the right reasons.
Our partnerships with sister agencies, other governmental entities, and our local community-based care (CBC) agencies are solid. Having worked closely with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) on issues has helped our partnership grow stronger.
We share a common goal with DCF and have professional relationships at all levels. We collaborate on many issues. For example, DCF had a crisis about a year-and-a-half ago and they had to care for many sibling groups. They and the CBCs reached out to APD, and we were able to immediately assist. APD had vacant group homes that were not occupied and we made the homes available to DCF. This partnership allowed for large sibling groups (non-APD customers) to remain together during their out-of-home placements, and as a result, minimizing any further traumatic experiences to them. The same level of collaboration takes place when working with children and adult investigations. APD and DCF work very closely to maintain open lines of communications; working in collaboration in the best interest of the mutual customers that we serve.
Other examples also include strong partnerships with the Department of Education-Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), DCF substance abuse and mental health providers, as well as working with the courts in serving our forensic customers. For many years, we have had a contract for court liaison services. This approach has been very successful allowing us to foster expertise in working with forensic cases that involve individuals with disabilities and strengthen our relationship with the courts.
The court liaison staff are very knowledgeable of APD services and well informed when they go to court. This consistency and level of preparation has significantly improved our relationship with the courts, and has allowed us to regain credibility. When a judge has a problem or concern, it is not unusual that he or she will reach out to APD from the bench and trust that we will immediately address the matter. This successful partnership is also attributed to the stellar job that our legal department does daily, and the relationships that they have fostered throughout the years with the courts.
Focus on Quality Assurance
We are focused on building the quality assurance (QA) work stream now that we have filled most vacancies. There is a concentrated effort on training providers and enhancing staff development to improve our QA.
We are also building momentum in enhancing our employment initiative goals, building partnerships through our chambers of commerce, and local businesses. South Florida is rich in resources and with some local grassroots efforts, we are able to expand the workforce development. Most recently, the Southern Region developed opportunities for customers to complete internships and training in our APD offices.
Our staff strive to continuously educate customers, parents, family members, and other caregivers in regard to accessing community resources. Serving individuals on the waiting list and connecting them with the means to meet their needs until they are able to receive waiver services makes an immense difference for our customers and their families. The Resource Directory continues to be extremely helpful to both the community and staff.
Additionally, we are also looking at new opportunities, such as the Florida International University’s (FIU) Embrace Program that focuses on affordable housing. There is a critical need for affordable housing in South Florida. Many people with developmental disabilities would be able to live independently with support services if they had access to affordable housing. One subgroup of this population that is greatly affected by the lack of affordable housing are APD customers with children, primarily single parents. It is our goal to pay special attention to these families with children under the age of six, and ensure that our customers and also their children are progressing and accessing necessary services.
Florida First Budget
We are very excited about the Florida First Budget as it will allow APD to serve more individuals from the waiting list. It is enormously rewarding when we can offer individuals on the waiting list the services they so greatly need. Our team is thrilled to be working toward elevating the consumer’s quality of life.
For more information about APD’s Southern region, please visit http://apd.myflorida.com/region/southern/ .