Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities

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Increases for ADT and Group Home Providers

Some Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) customers and providers will see a financial increase beginning July 1.  APD group home providers will receive a $40 per person increase for room and board. Also, APD customers will receive a $40 increase in their Personal Needs Allowance if living in an APD-licensed homes. The rates were last increased in 2008.

Adult day training providers will receive about a two percent increase in their rates for serving APD customers starting July 1. This increase was approved by the Legislature in May. For additional information regarding the rate increases, contact your APD Regional Office.


To view more stories from the July issue of The Champion visit us online at: http://apdcares.org/champion/

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APD Presentation Schedule for Family Café

Family Cafe kicks off at the Orlando Hilton on June 6, and we hope that you and your family is able to attend.  The Agency for Persons with Disabilities will be conducting several presentations on June 6 and 7.  We also hope you will stop by our booth in the exhibit hall.  See APD’s presentation schedule below:


Friday, June 6

1:30-2:30 p.m. Aging in Place and Your Home, JR Harding (APD), Larry Baster (Elder Affairs)

1:30-2:30 p.m. Quality Services – What should you Know About Your Service Provider?, Denise Arnold, Edwin DeBardeleben

1:30-2:30 p.m. Human Trafficking, Meghan Murray

3-4 p.m.The Silent Epidemic: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of Persons with Developmental Disabilities, Tom Rice

3-4 p.m. APD’s Billy Joe Rish Park – A Park for People with Disabilities, JR Harding

4:30-5:30 p.m.Increasing Successful Employment Outcomes, Nancy Butout

4:30-5:30 p.m. Achieving YOUR Goals – Perseverance, Determination, and a Little Help from iBudget Florida, Denise Arnold (APD), Robyn Stawski (Self-Advocate)

4:30-5:30 p.m. Traveling by Air as a Person with a Disability, JR Harding (APD), Delta Airlines


Saturday, June 7

11 a.m. – noon Meet APD Director Barbara Palmer, Director Barbara Palmer

1-2 p.m. What is Consumer Directed Care Plus Program (CDC+)?, (Spanish) Ivonne Gonzalez

2:30-3:30 p.m. What is Consumer Directed Care Plus Program (CDC+)?, (English) Ivonne Gonzalez, Susan Nipper

4-5 p.m. Airport Backstage Pass, JR Harding (APD), Delta Airlines+


For more information on Family Cafe, please visit their website at http://www.familycafe.net/

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Governor Scott: It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget Invests in Priorities for Persons with Disabilities and Vulnerable Populations

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Governor Rick Scott today highlighted investments in the It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget directed to support individuals with disabilities.

Governor Scott said, “We’re committed to providing every Florida family the opportunity to live the American Dream – and this Budget invests another $20 million to move more than 1,000 individuals off the APD waitlist. 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.”

The It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget supports Governor Scott’s commitment to make investments in Florida’s most vulnerable communities.

Brings Individuals with Critical Needs Off Agency for Persons with Disabilities Waitlist: The It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget funding of the Developmental Disabilities Medicaid Waiver waiting list will bring all remaining individuals with critical needs off of the waiting list – a first in the history of the program. The Budget provides $20 million to bring more than 1,000 individuals off of the waiting list for the second year in a row and provides them with home and community-based services to help them live, learn, and work in their communities.

Supported Employment: The It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget invests a total of $2.5 million toward job placement and training for individuals with developmental disabilities who are looking for employment and internship opportunities. With this increased funding, more young adults with developmental disabilities will have firsthand opportunities to demonstrate their skills in the workplace. Maximizing firsthand experiences in the workplace was one of three primary recommendations of the 2012 report by the Governor’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities.

William J. (Billy Joe) Rish Recreational Park: The It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget provides $1 million to provide maintenance and repairs at Billy Joe Rish Park, located on the St. Joseph Peninsula near Port St. Joe and Cape San Blas in Northwest Florida. Rish Park is open year round for people with disabilities and their family members, guardians, and caregivers. Personal Needs Allowance: The Budget supports $539,000 to increase the personal needs allowance from $35 to $105 per month for individuals living in Intermediate Care Facilities run by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

Early Intervention Services for Autism: The Budget supports $1.4 million toward early screening and intervention services for children with autism spectrum disorder in underserved families. These services will provide relief to families by teaching critical skills, reducing problem behavior, and improving IQ and adaptive and social skills in their children. Funds will also be used to train future physicians, psychologists, and behavioral therapists who will be crucial in expanding access to these important services in the future.

MACTown Fitness and Wellness: The It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget continues efforts to identify new and different ideas for helping individuals with developmental disabilities achieve their maximum potential in living healthy and productive lives. The Budget supports $175,000 for MACTown Fitness and Wellness Center in Miami-Dade for a personalized, safe, and closely monitored environment. Individuals can pursue their fitness goals through education, hands-on experience, and a consistent schedule of exercising on professional and specialized equipment and aerobics classes. The healthier the individual, the better they are able to maximize their independent living skills.

The Arc of Florida Dental Services: The Budget supports much-needed dental services for individuals with developmental disabilities through another $2 million provided to The Arc of Florida. Funds will be used to enroll new providers and continue statewide coordinated dental services, which will improve the health and self-confidence of the people served.

Rate Increase for Adult Day Training Providers: The Budget supports $1.3 million for a two percent across-the-board raise to all providers of adult day training services in the Medicaid Home and Community Based Services Waiver program. These services are among the most popular in the program. Providers offer individuals up to six hours per day of meaningful activities that support the individual in daily routines of the community, including training in the areas of self-help, adaptive, and social skills. These services are provided in congregate, facility-based settings, and may include off-site enclaves or mobile work crews.

APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “I am thrilled the Legislature supported Governor Scott’s recommendation to fund the waiver waiting list for a second consecutive year. With this new money, we will now be able to serve the remaining individuals with critical needs on the waiting list. This is a major milestone for APD. I appreciate Governor Scott and the Legislature’s ongoing support of APD and assistance in helping us achieve this important goal.”

Pat Young, president of The Arc of Florida, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said, “We are grateful to Governor Scott and the Legislature for moving individuals off of the Medicaid Waiver Waitlist and continuing to fund this important dental program. Many Floridians with developmental disabilities have suffered from dental pain for more than a decade. They will now be pain-free.”

Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities Executive Director Suzanne Sewell said, “The Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (Florida ARF) thanks Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature for responding to the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities by appropriating an additional $20 million to serve individuals and families who have been waiting for years to receive essential services. Because of this budget, more than 1,000 individuals will be served during next fiscal year.

Additionally, another $500,000 was approved to assist individuals with disabilities with achieving of their career goals. Our member agencies are thrilled that so many individuals will be receiving the supports they need to maintain their independence and enhance their quality of life,”

Florida Developmental Disabilities Council Executive Director Debra Dowds said, “We are very appreciative of Governor Rick Scott for his continued support to address the needs of Floridians with developmental disabilities. Through this additional funding many more people with developmental disabilities on the waiting list will be offered waiver enrollment and receive the services they need to be employed, independent, and to meaningfully participate in their communities.”

Sherry Wheelock, Special Olympics Florida President and CEO said, “This funding is critical to the health and emotional well-being of people with developmental disabilities in Florida allowing them to be contributing and respected members of society.”

Betty Kay Clements, parent and past chairperson of the Family Care Council Florida said, “I want to express a sincere thank you to Governor Scott and Florida legislators for continuing to address the APD waiting list by budgeting $20 million for next year. These dollars will ensure that additional individuals will enroll in the APD HCBS waiver and receive the quality services and supports they need. The $500,000 for employment services also increases the number of individuals who will realize their goal of working in their community alongside their neighbors, and reaching their potential. The money for Rish Park will allow APD to upgrade this unique park and assist people with disabilities to enjoy a full range of accessible recreational adventures among nature and a beautiful Florida coastline.”

The Association of Support Coordination Agencies of Florida chairperson Janice Phillips said, “The association is heartened by the efforts of Governor Scott and the 2014 Legislature to improve the lives of Florida’s most vulnerable citizens. For the second year in a row, additional funding is allocated to provide needed assistance to individuals on the waiver waiting list. This also provides assurance and encouragement to other families remaining on the list that help is on the way. We also applaud the governor and Legislature for providing funding for supported employment to people with developmental disabilities. This will enable individuals to become more productive citizens of Florida by enhancing their lives with meaningful employment and added inclusion and engagement in their communities. The funding for improvements to Rish Park—an extraordinary facility designed as a completely wheelchair-accessible getaway for people with disabilities—will provide many hours of enjoyment to this population for generations to come. The inclusion of these items in the 2014-15 state budget is very exciting for all of us who serve this very special group of Floridians.”

Area 2 Family Care Council Chairperson Lou Ogburn said, “We are pleased that money has been put in the budget to further reduce the folks who are on the waiting list, to provide dollars to help with employment efforts, and to improve Rish Park. It is critical that our state continue to work on eliminating the waiting list for those needing services. The dollars for employment efforts will help by allowing some people to work and thereby reducing the amount needed from the waiver while keeping them living in the least restrictive environment.”

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Summer Safety

Sun Safety

June is National Safety Month.  APD wants you to have a happy and safe summer vacation, and we will give you safety tips throughout the entire month.  As your family heads to the beach, (Billy Joe Rish Park we hope!) keep in mind the following summer safety issues:

  • Sun safety
  • Water safety
  • Surviving the hot weather
  • Impaired driving
  • Fireworks safety


Overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can not only cause painful sunburns, but can also have long-lasting, damaging health effects including skin cancer, eye damage, and premature aging.  The best ways to prevent excessive sun exposure are wear a shirt, use broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher, and wear a hat and sunglasses.

Water Safety

No matter where you are in Florida you are never too far from a beach, and with several months of warm weather boating, swimming, and other water activities are very popular.  Water safety is extremely important especially for young children and individuals with disabilities that may have mobility issues.  The following tips will help you and your loved ones stay safe while swimming or boating this summer:

  • Supervise young children when in or around water
  • Use the buddy system
  • One-on-one supervision or use life jackets for people who have seizures
  • Learn to swim
  • Learn CPR
  • Avoid alcohol while near water
  • Know local weather conditions before swimming or boating
  • Use life jackets when boating
  • Know the meaning and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags
  • Watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents
  • If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore

Surviving the hot weather

Heat related illness, such as heatstroke, can happen to anyone who is not accustomed to being in intense heat.  Heatstroke occurs when the core body temperature reaches 105 degrees Fahrenheit.  Signs of heatstroke may include:

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot, dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
  • Seizures
  • Fainting or unconsciousness

The best method of fighting heatstroke is prevention.  Get in the shade and keep cool.  Remember to keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water.  Refrain from engaging in rigorous outdoor activities if you are not used to the heat.

Impaired Driving

Drinking and driving is never a good combination.  Driving impaired or riding in the car with an impaired driver can result in serious injury to yourself or others, and potentially even death.  If you go to a social gathering that will involve alcohol, make plans in advance.  You can make the decision to be the designated driver, arrange for transportation by cab, or arrange for a friend to be your designated driver.  Having a plan before you go to a party is one step in ensuring you and your fellow drivers’ safety.

Fireworks Safety

Summer brings picnics, barbecues, parades and fireworks displays, especially around the 4th of July. Summer also brings an increase in injuries from backyard grills, bonfires, and fireworks.  The National Council on Fireworks Safety offers several common sense tips for staying safe during the holiday season.

  • Always purchase fireworks from a reliable source.
  • Do no alter fireworks; use as directed on packaging.
  • Observe local laws.
  • A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities.
  • Wear safety glasses whenever using fireworks.
  • Never relight a dud firework.  Wait 20 minutes and then soak in a bucket of water.
  • Soak spent fireworks with water before placing them in an outdoor trashcan.


Fishing on the beach

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Sunland Center

Guest post by Sunland Center Superintendent Merlin Roulhac


Sunland Center is a Developmental Disabilities Center operated by the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Sunland Center comprises Sunland at Marianna, the Developmental Disabilities Defendant Program in Chattahoochee, and Rish Park in Cape San Blas.

Sunland is focused on becoming recognized as a world-class organization through superior management, respecting people, focusing on our customers, and implementing performance improvement through our Organizational Performance Improvement teams.

April has been a busy and exciting month at Sunland.  The warmer weather of April brings on many fun filled events and activities for both staff and residents. Special Olympics kicked spring into high gear and the Sonic Basketball team secured a solid victory among the other great competitors.

The Pathways TEAM launched their first Jam Blast which was a resounding success. Residents and staff entertained everyone with melodic sounds by various recording artists, to include Luke Bryan, The Temptations, R. Kelly, and Billy Weathers, just to name a few.

An appreciation picnic for Sunland’s volunteers was held on April 10 at the Sunland Environmental Park.  Approximately 100 volunteers and staff attended.  Awards were presented to Maria Johnson, Volunteer of the Year and the Marianna Women’s Club as the Volunteer Group of the Year.  Thank you volunteers for everything you do – Sunland values and appreciates you!   Baskets of delicious goodies will be delivered to the residents’ homes on April 17, followed by the annual Special Olympics Equestrian show which takes place on April 18 and is a highly anticipated event for both residents and staff.  Family Day rounds out April with great eagerness and anticipation as residents and their families enjoy a relaxing day and delicious picnic lunch at the Sunland Environmental Park.

These activities would not be possible without the dedication of our employees. Sunland administration certainly appreciates their devotion and commitment to those we serve.  Understanding that employee appreciation has long been recognized as key to a successful, positive workplace environment, we have worked diligently to build a vibrant employee recognition program. The Sunland Employee Recognition Program is alive and well, with a very robust Star Employee program.   This program operates systematically, recognizing and honoring the extraordinary achievements of our employees by publicly announcing such accomplishments to the Sunland community and celebrating these achievements monthly, quarterly, and annually.  Staff may be recognized with an individual Star Employee award, or as a member of a Star Team.  We are pleased to report that calendar year to date, a total of 77 employees have been recognized as Star employees!  Sunland appreciates our workforce and strives to create and maintain a positive work environment where employees have an opportunity to excel in their chosen professions.

In other news, Maria, a Sunland employee and Robert, a Pathways resident placed first and third, respectively, in a city art show held in Marianna.

Recently, Sunland teamed up with the APD State Office Webmaster and launched a website that includes Sunland at Marianna, Pathways, the Developmental Disabilities Defendant Program (DDDP), and a link that will take site visitors to the Rish Park page. To visit the site, go to http://apdcares.org/sunland/.

Finally, William J. (Billy Joe) Rish Park is open year round for people with disabilities and their family members, guardians, and caregivers.  The 2014 summer season is off to a very busy start with daily reservations and renovations on the bay side of the park. For reservations at (or questions about) the park, you can contact Onna Lipford at (850) 482-9386 or e-mail Onna.Lipford@apdcares.org.

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FSU Police Donate to Send Families on Vacation

TALLAHASSEE, FL—The Florida State University (FSU) Police Department will donate $2,000 to the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) for Rish Park on Friday, February 28, at 11 a.m. FSU Police Chief David Perry will present the check to APD Director Barbara Palmer on FSU’s campus outside Doak Campbell Stadium next to the Unconquered statue. This is the second year the FSU Police Department has made this donation.

The money will be used to send four families to William J. (Billy Joe) Rish Recreational Park on Cape San Blas for a four day and three night vacation. The money will pay for gasoline to get to the park, food while at the park, and a disposable camera to capture the weekend. The families will be selected from individuals on the APD Medicaid waiver waiting list.

Rish Park, which originally opened in 1975, is the state’s only park specifically for people with disabilities and is operated by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). The park is located at 6773 Cape San Blas Road in Gulf County.

The park is named after former State Representative Billy Joe Rish who was instrumental in securing the land from the federal government in 1968 and designating it for use by people with disabilities. The park is open to visitors with disabilities and their families year round. If you would like to make a reservation, contact Sunland in Marianna at (850) 482-9386 or visit RishPark.org.

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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APD Schedules Town Hall Meetings

TALLAHASSEE —The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) and the Family Care Councils have scheduled five Town Hall meetings in North Florida. APD Director Barbara Palmer will present a state of the agency, share an update on the approved Florida Families First budget, then lead a question and answer session with attendees.

Director Palmer said, “Our first few Town Hall meetings have gone very well and I want to continue to talk to our stakeholders about our agency.  I especially enjoy listening to individuals and families who are served by APD about their concerns and successes.”

If individuals are not able to attend a Town Hall meeting, they may submit questions through Twitter @FloridaAPD and Director Palmer will read the question and respond to it during a meeting.

The next APD Town Hall meetings will be at the following locations:

July 9, 6-8 p.m.
The Arc Jacksonville
1050 Davis Street
Jacksonville, FL 32209

July 10, 2-4 p.m.
University of Central Florida
1200 W International Speedway Blvd
Building 150, Room 101
Daytona Beach, FL
Parking is in Lot Orange B

July 17, 1-3 p.m.
Holley Language and Literature Building
Sarzin Lecture Hall
Gulf Coast State College
5230 W. Hwy 98
Panama City, FL 32401

July 18, 3-5 p.m.
Marcus Point Baptist Church
6205 N W St
Pensacola, FL 32505

July 25, 10 a.m.-noon
Department of Transportation
2301 NW 39th Avenue
Gainesville, FL

To find out the latest schedule of APD Town Hall meetings, visit APDCares.org.  Director Palmer will visit every region of the state to hear ways the agency can improve its services to citizens with developmental disabilities.

To encourage attendance at the APD Town Hall meetings, APD is launching the Picture This campaign. Town Hall attendees are asked to take a digital photo with Director Palmer before or after the meeting with their camera or smart phone, and then send it to APD.info@apdcares.org.  The photos will be posted on the APD website and on APD social media. One photo will be picked to be highlighted in the APD Champion newsletter each month.

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. To learn more about the agency, call 1-866-APD-CARES (1-866-273-2273) or visit APDcares.org.