Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities

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“KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” Budget Eliminates Critical Needs Waiting List for Second Year in a Row

Third Year to Fund Waiting List Enrollment

TALLAHASSEE, FL—Florida Governor Rick Scott is again recommending funding to serve individuals with critical needs on the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) waiver waiting list. Governor Scott’s proposed 2015-2016 “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget includes $1.16 billion for APD with $8 million to serve the waiting list. The money will be used to enroll about 400 individuals into the APD Home and Community-Based Services Medicaid waiver so they can use this funding for community services. This is the third year the Governor has recommended money to serve the waiting list and the second year in a row that the Governor has taken the action to eliminate the waiting list.

Governor Scott said, “We are excited that we are recommending the funding to again eliminate the critical needs waiting list this year. These life changing investments will create more opportunities for all Floridians to get the care and treatment they deserve.”

APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “I cannot thank Governor Scott enough for his continued support of individuals with disabilities. For the third year, Governor Scott is recommending funding to serve people on the waiting list with critical needs. This money will allow everyone with critical needs to enroll into the Medicaid waiver in the coming year. For the past two years, APD has carefully managed its budget while also enrolling new individuals into the Medicaid waiver, which many people thought would be impossible. I appreciate Governor Scott’s ongoing confidence in APD and the people we serve.”

Also for the third year, Governor Scott’s budget proposal includes $2 million to assist people on the waiver and the waiting list who have indicated that they want to go to work. This funding will pay for Supported Employment and supported internship services for people with developmental disabilities.

Additionally, Governor Scott is recommending $2.9 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 effectively serve individuals with developmental disabilities by providing electronic information that will track provider services and the progress of the client.

Family Care Council Florida Chairperson Pauline Lipps said, “We applaud Governor Scott for his continued efforts to reduce the waiting list of individuals with developmental disabilities across the state of Florida. Through these efforts and the Employment First Initiative, individuals will be afforded the opportunity to pursue employment services in the community that could reduce the barriers of finding competitive employment for individuals with disabilities.”

Betty Kay Clements, parent and past chairperson of the Family Care Council Florida, said, “I am so pleased that Governor Scott’s 2015 “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget includes $2 million for APD to continue to support the employment contribution that individuals with developmental disabilities can make as they highlight their many abilities.  Given the opportunity, their contribution is not just that of personal growth, self-esteem, and a paycheck, but a job well done that also benefits their communities and Florida’s employers. Everyone benefits!”

The Association of Support Coordination Agencies of Florida chairperson Janice Phillips said, “We appreciate Governor Scott who continues to embrace the issues facing individuals with developmental disabilities. Providing money to move people with critical needs off the waiting list is an important priority, and I am so happy it is a priority of the governor too. Helping individuals move forward toward their goals is what we all want.  I am pleased that funding has been earmarked to assist people with disabilities with their employment goals.  Having a job is extremely important to everyone, including those with disabilities who are trying to enter the workforce and become productive citizens of our state.”

Area 2 Family Care Council Chairperson Lou Ogburn said, “We applaud the Governor for his efforts to reduce the size of the waiting list.  We are also pleased he is providing help to the developmental disabilities community in employment.  It is critical for those who are able and want to work to be able to earn a paycheck.  His understanding and push to help overcome some of the hurdles with finding willing employers is so important.  We are also pleased with the money for a new Client Data Management System in order to more closely track the services to individuals with developmental disabilities so can be offered more timely when possible.”

Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities President and CEO Suzanne Sewell said, “We are thrilled to see that waiver enrollment will continue in the coming year and that the Governor is investing in a strong provider network to meet the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities. Providing community services to people with developmental disabilities is essential. We are pleased to see that Governor Scott is recommending about $8 million to continue to move new individuals into the Medicaid waiver and to ensure that a strong viable network is available to provide the services they need.”

“Special Olympics Florida applauds Governor Scott and the Legislature for dedicating critical funds that will help to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Florida. With this funding we are proud to work with APD to create communities statewide that value the contributions of all citizens,” President and CEO of Special Olympics Florida Sherry Wheelock.

To view the complete list of Governor Scott’s budget recommendations, visit www.KeepFloridaWorking.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).

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Florida’s Employment First Initiative

On October 8, 2013, Governor Rick Scott issued Executive Order 13-284, where he reaffirmed his commitment to employment as “the most direct and cost-effective means in helping an individual achieve independence and self-fulfillment, which should be the primary objective of public assistance programs wherever possible.” The Executive Order defines employment as follows:

“…integrated employment, including supported employment, customized employment, and self-employment, where an individual is paid by an employer at minimum wage or greater or receives earnings through one’s self-employment business, fully integrated in the community workforce, with a goal of maximum self-sufficiency.”

On May 7, 2014, the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities; the Florida Department of Education, Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services, Division of Blind Services, and Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; Florida Department of Economic Opportunity; CareerSource Florida; Florida Department of Children and Families, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Office; Florida Developmental Disabilities Council; and Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (hereafter referred to as the partners) signed the Employment First Initiative Interagency Cooperative Agreement, committing to improve competitive employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. This five-year agreement took effect July 1, 2014, and it represents unprecedented interagency collaboration to ensure this commitment is instituted in the state’s programs that serve individuals with disabilities to help them achieve successful employment and independence in their communities.

As the state partners work toward the objectives outlined in the Interagency Cooperative Agreement, our desire is to make you aware of these efforts and how you can support this collaboration within your community.

The Florida Employment First Grassroots Group, which consists of quarterly webinar sessions for local stakeholders to discuss important issues related to employment, is one tool that was created to help facilitate local collaboration. In January, the Grassroots Group will host a discussion on ways to build and expand collaborative teams. We strongly encourage you to participate.

Finally, we want to inform you of our interagency communication efforts to promote more employment opportunities within the business community. The partners recently launched the “Abilities Work” Communications Plan, a statewide effort to promote a consistent message of awareness to employers and assist with the recruitment of qualified applicants. In the upcoming year, we will coordinate these efforts with our state and local partners to inform more employers of the opportunities individuals with disabilities offer their workforce and community.

Recently, the Employment First workgroup launched the Abilities Work job portal at abilitieswork.employflorida.com and Help Desk at 844-245-3405.  More information about these two initiatives will be forthcoming.

In the coming months, the partners will provide more specific information on these collaborative initiatives and offer ways for you to get involved.

We hope this information is helpful, and look forward to working with you in carrying out this long-term, collaborative commitment to empowering individuals with disabilities to compete in Florida’s economy!

For further information, please contact APD State Office Employment Coordinator LeeAnn Herman at leeann.herman@apdcares.org.


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GOVERNOR AND FLORIDA CABINET HIGHLIGHT PROGRAM TO MATCH FLORIDIANS WITH DISABILITIES TO JOBS

TALLAHASSEE – Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet highlighted recent efforts to promote more employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, and efforts to assist employers in finding and hiring these talented individuals to be part of their workforce. Yesterday morning’s presentation included an overview of the new Abilities Work Web Portal and Help Desk to help link employers to job seekers who have disabilities.

Governor Scott said, “Our mission is to ensure that every Floridian can get a great job. I would like to thank everyone involved with the Abilities Work Web Portal and Help Desk for making employment a reality for many more Floridians. Connecting Floridians with disabilities to employers benefits everyone, and we must continue working each day to make sure everyone who wants a job can have one.”

The Abilities Work Web Portal and Help Desk are key components of a larger effort, the Employment First Initiative, announced last year. The portal and help desk are designed to help employers recruit and hire more applicants with disabilities who are ready and able to work, and inform them of the available support that can help an individual succeed on the job. This initiative was recommended by Governor Scott’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities to better link employers to qualified job-seekers with disabilities in their communities. This also supports the established commitment among multiple interagency partners involved with the Employment First Initiative to prioritize employment for individuals with disabilities served by state programs to help them achieve greater independence and self-fulfillment, as required by Governor Scott’s Executive Order 13-284.

The Governor’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), the Florida Department of Education’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Division of Blind Services, and Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Department of Children and Families’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Program, the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, the Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, and CareerSource Florida, all participants in the Employment First Initiative, have partnered to implement the Abilities Work Web Portal and Help Desk.

DEO created the Abilities Work Web Portal within the Employ Florida Marketplace, the state’s official online job-matching and career development tool, to accomplish this purpose. The new web portal will help employers identify qualified job candidates with disabilities and post job openings. The portal will also assist job seekers and students with disabilities in finding job opportunities and link them with career centers and other resources that can help them obtain and keep employment.

During the 2014 Legislative Session, Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature provided funding to create the Abilities Work Help Desk within the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) to accompany the web portal. Employers can reach the Help Desk through a toll-free number, 1-844-245-3405. It is staffed by three knowledgeable professionals who can assist employers interested in recruiting individuals with disabilities as part of their workforce, and provide them with information and referral services that can support their business needs.

DEO Executive Director Jesse Panuccio said, “Gainful employment affirms the inherent worth of an individual by providing a productive outlet for our talents, skills, and dedication. A job is a life-changing opportunity for all Floridians and we are excited to be able to assist Floridians with disabilities on this journey.”

“The Abilities Work Web Portal and Help Desk will connect educated and skilled Floridians with disabilities with employers in their communities, strengthening our workforce and our economy,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “I’m pleased the Department of Education’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Division of Blind Services and Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services could collaborate with such dedicated partners to bring this project to life.”

Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Director Barbara Palmer said, “I am very excited to see the launch of both the Abilities Work job portal and help desk. Helping people with disabilities get and keep jobs is a top priority for APD. Also, as a member of the Governor’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities, we are happy to see this idea become a reality. People with disabilities are just like everyone else—they want the opportunity to prove themselves, and the job portal and help desk are going to assist them in accomplishing their goals.”

“Individuals with disabilities, like everyone else, want their shot at success and to make a lasting contribution to our state. We believe employers want to hire these individuals – not because of a disability – but because they recognize the talent and value they bring to their business. “Abilities Work” represents Florida’s commitment to help employers recognize and find this talent, and will expand opportunities for these individuals to succeed in their career and life endeavors,” said David Darm, Executive Director, Governor’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities.

“Dedicated and hard-working, Floridians with disabilities have abilities that make them a true asset in the workplace,” said CareerSource Florida President and CEO Chris Hart IV. “The new Abilities Work portal enhances our collective efforts to connect these ready-to-work individuals with employers who are ready to hire.”

Aleisa McKinlay, Director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), said, “VR’s mission is to help Floridians with disabilities get or keep a job, and enhance their independence. Employers are an essential part of this equation. The Abilities Work Web Portal and Help Desk are designed to link Florida’s employers with the supports and services they need to find, hire, and retain qualified employees with disabilities. Together, we can ensure that these talented folks are a vital part of the workforce and their communities!”

Division of Blind Services (DBS) Director Robert L. Doyle, III, said, “The launch of the Abilities Work Web Portal and Help Desk is an exciting stride in our continuous effort to increase job opportunities for individuals with disabilities. We have incredibly talented individuals with a wide variety of skills seeking employment through our vocational rehabilitation programs; these new tools will assist in matching qualified candidates with job opportunities while also increasing awareness amongst employers. We at DBS are especially excited that the portal is accessible to blind and visually impaired job seekers who use screen reading software and other assistive technology.”

Monica Verra-Tirado, the Bureau Chief of the Exceptional Education and Student Services of FDOE, stated, “Positive post-school outcomes are a major indicator of the success of our education programs for students with disabilities, so we are excited to be working with our partners on the Employment First effort. We look forward to seeing more of our students obtaining successful employment with support from the Abilities Work Web Portal and collaborative partnerships.”

Debra Dowds, Florida Developmental Disabilities Council (FDDC) Executive Director said, “We are delighted to be a partner in this initiative. The collaborative efforts among major agencies and organizations serving individuals with disabilities are unprecedented in our state, and these efforts are beginning to pay off with tangible products and resources that will assist individuals with disabilities in securing competitive employment!”

Ute Gazioch, Director of the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health at the Department of Children and Families said, “The Department of Children and Families, Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health is very excited to be a partner in this important initiative.  Employment provides a sense of purpose, hope and opportunity for independence, all essential factors to recovery for persons with behavioral health conditions.”

“On behalf of the membership of Florida ARF and the RESPECT of Florida program, we are pleased to be a part of Florida’s Employment First initiative and are excited to see the positive outcomes that are being generated by the partner agencies. Accomplishments such as the Abilities Work Portal and Help Desk demonstrate the participants’ commitment to creating real jobs for people with disabilities,” said Suzanne Sewell, President & CEO, Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (ARF).

For more information, please visit the Abilities Work Web Portal at http://AbilitiesWork.employflorida.com.   The Help Desk can be contacted at 1-844-245-3405 or AbilitiesWorkHD@vr.fldoe.org.

About DEO

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity combines the state’s economic, workforce, and community development efforts.  This new approach helps expedite economic development projects to fuel job creation in competitive communities.  For more information, including valuable resources for employers and job seekers, please visit www.floridajobs.org.


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APD Northwest Region Spring Happenings

Guest post by APD NW Region Operations Manager Lynne Daw

 

The Northwest region, one of six geographic regions within APD covers the 16 most western counties in the panhandle of Florida.  Due to the large coverage area, the region also has field offices in Pensacola, Panama City, and Marianna with the regional office located in Tallahassee.

Spring has finally sprung and with it several exciting events are blooming in the region!

Marcus Pointe Baptist Church in Pensacola hosted a Disability Ministry Conference on March 29. The purpose of the event was to recruit other churches into developing ministries dedicated to individuals with disabilities and their needs.  The guest speaker was Joni and Friends, Charlotte team. This organization is committed to train, disciple, and mentor people with disabilities exercise their gifts of leadership and service in the church and in their communities. Twelve churches were represented at the conference. One topic discussed was how to set up respite opportunities like the one offered by Marcus Pointe one Saturday per month. Two other churches will be partnering with Marcus Pointe in setting up a similar respite program.

On April 5, the Northwest Region 2 Family Care Council sponsored a nutritional workshop for family members, paid caregivers and self-advocates.  Presenters at the workshop included nationally renowned dietician, Sandra Woodruff who provided information on making wise choices when grocery shopping.  She included tips on how to read food labels, when to choose fresh versus frozen foods, and how to get the best value when shopping.  Jim Bellamy, of the Frenchtown Project, presented the exciting opportunity for individuals who have EBT dollars and how to double their value by purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables!  Participants learned that importance of combining exercise with good food choices with a presentation by Gold’s Gym Owner, Joe Burtoft. The highlight of the event was the cooking demonstration presented by Chef Shafrica Simmons who prepared stir fry using brown rice and a variety of fresh greens and vegetables. Along with enjoying food samples by Chef Simmons, participants were also provided with a free nutritious lunch sponsored, in part, by Newk’s restaurant.

Regional staff are making great strides in identifying both employment and internship opportunities for individuals utilizing the Employment Enhancement Project (EEP) grant.  Since January 2014, over 13 individuals have become employed in new jobs and more than 18 individuals are actively participating in paid internships in the community!  We have seen great response on the part of the community in developing these internship opportunities. On April 11, about 300 students participated in the Transition Services Fair at University of West Florida in Pensacola. During this fair, APD set up mock interviews with 12 employers and teachers to provide students with interview experience.  As a result, one individual was given the opportunity for a real interview with anticipation of hire.  Regional Employment Liaison Katrina Washington presented with Brenda Clark of the University of South Florida at the Visions Conference in Tampa April 29 to May 2, which will help attendees use creative writing as a tool toward employment.


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Cabinet to Declare Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Governor to Recognize Gulf Coast Enterprises

TALLAHASSEE, FL—Attorney General Pam Bondi will introduce a resolution at the Florida Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, March 18, declaring the month of March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in Florida.

Representatives from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), Family Care Council, Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, The Arc of Florida, and the Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities will be there to accept the resolution.

Cheryl Govea, a parent of a child with developmental disabilities, will address Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet on the importance of funding community services for people with disabilities.

In addition, Governor Scott will present his Business Ambassador Award to Gulf Coast Enterprises for the company’s longstanding commitment to employing hundreds of people with disabilities at military bases throughout the state.

The Cabinet meeting will begin at 8 a.m. in the Cabinet meeting room on the lower level of the Capitol Building.

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).