Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities

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The Champion, November Issue

November is a time when people begin thinking about delicious turkey, dressing, and all the other wonderful food associated with Thanksgiving Day in America. It is also a time when I think about all the things I am thankful for in my personal and professional life.

Here at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) we have much for which to be thankful. We had a very successful October celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month. We had a great event recognizing businesses that are committed to hiring people with disabilities (see story below). There were Disability Mentoring Day activities around the state too. I enjoy talking to and reading about our customers’ successes on the job. It is another great reason why we do what we do.

Working with our stakeholders, APD has been able to offer waiver enrollment to 1,200 people this year. I am extremely thankful to Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature for recommending and supporting the $20 million in additional money so we could enroll new individuals into the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services waiver. Added to the $36 million the agency received last fiscal year to offer enrollment to 1,600 people, we have been able to see tremendous movement in people moving off the APD Medicaid waiver waiting list.

This year, Florida became the first state in the country to offer reciprocity to military members being transferred to Florida who have a family member receiving waiver services in another state. We are now able to provide continuity of services to those family members who in the past would have gone on the waiting list when moving to Florida. Addressing the needs of people on the waiting list is a top priority of mine, so these successes make me thankful.

Certainly, the agency has had numerous challenges. We have been able to overcome them and continue to move forward. Our job is to ensure that people with developmental disabilities have the services they need to participate in their local communities. We all know there is more demand than resources. With all of us working together, we have been able to meet the agency’s mission. Success is a team sport, so thank you for all that you do to ensure the success of Floridians with developmental disabilities.

I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

–Director Barbara Palmer

For more stories from The Champion, please visit http://apdcares.org/champion/


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Meaningful Work A Priority

By Director Barbara Palmer

One of the top priorities of the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) is to help people with developmental disabilities find employment. APD customers tell us they want to be able to find and keep a job just like anyone else. The agency provides services, like job coaching, to ensure that individuals are able to keep their positions for the long term.

October is when the entire nation focuses on employment opportunities for people with disabilities because it is Disability Employment Awareness Month. Florida’s theme for the month is Abilities Work.  On September 23, Governor Scott and the Cabinet declared October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Florida.

This past year, Governor Rick Scott recommended and the Florida Legislature supported providing $500,000 for on-the-job training and internships. These dollars helped 170 people find jobs or internships, many for the first time. These opportunities to learn job skills are invaluable. Additionally, APD has more than 3,500 of its customers who are successfully working.  When people with disabilities are working they are relying less on others to meet their needs. Anyone who is working feels more valued and better about themselves. It is a smart investment.

APD customer Rachel Caylor has worked at a Pensacola Walmart for seven years. Caylor recently moved up to a cashier position, which was her goal. Caylor’s Supervisor, Shalawn Kennedy, was impressed with Caylor’s persistence and willingness to volunteer to help as a cashier so they offered her the permanent cashier position. Kennedy said, “Rachel has a great work ethic. She is an all-around girl because she is knowledgeable about a lot of areas. She is reliable and dependable. Rachel does what is asked of her, then more. She is also great with customers.”

Individuals just want a chance to prove themselves to a willing employer. APD works in partnership with the state’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program to provide support that the individual and the employer may need to ensure a successful job match.

I hope to see more people with disabilities finding long-term careers, like Caylor. We need companies that are willing to provide job opportunities to all people who are qualified and able to perform the work. I want to assure you that APD, VR, Blind Services, Department of Economic Opportunity, Veterans’ Affairs, and other programs are here to help your organization make the best job match. And we will be there in the future should either party need assistance. We want the partnership to be a win-win for everyone involved and your organization to have a dedicated employee, just like Rachel Caylor.

 

To read the rest of the October edition of The Champion visit our website  at http://apdcares.org/champion/


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An Amazing Bank Teller by James Vidrine

Rachel Doeble is a determined young woman who pursues her personal and career goals, and achieves them. Her career in the banking industry began in 2004, and she has been working full-time since June 2011 at Regions Bank in North Naples.

Doeble receives services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) in Naples.

She is married to her husband, John, and with his three children from a previous marriage, plus her young daughter, they created a large family with four children. She truly has full days.

Things have not always been this bright for Doeble. She entered this world as a three month premature infant. At her birth, she tipped the scale at less than three pounds. She spent the first six weeks of her life in the hospital, gaining weight and increasing her strength, so she could go home.

Doeble’s parents, however, soon noticed problems with her development. In her 15th month, her pediatrician broke the difficult news to her parents. Her delayed development was due to cerebral palsy. This news, although a shock, did not deter them whatsoever. Her parents worked with her at home to master the developmental skills that other toddlers and preschool children seemed to achieve without effort.

When Doeble entered kindergarten, the work she and her parents had engaged in for years paid off handsomely. Rachel was able to walk independently, with some difficulty at times, but without the need for a wheelchair. She was described by others at school, as a very friendly and a likeable youngster, with excellent cognitive and vocabulary skills. Her teachers also noted she could be stubborn at times.

Perhaps it was her stubbornness that contributed to her ongoing ability to engage the world with a positive attitude and determination to succeed. Doeble recalls, “As a child I had difficulty maneuvering around in school. I had to learn how to ask for help when I needed it, but also how to decline offers for assistance that I did not need or want.”

Doeble’s positive and caring attitude and her determination to succeed have not gone unnoticed by her supervisors at Regions Bank. Her direct supervisor, Head Teller Kathy Wessling describes Rachel’s work as amazing and fabulous. She depends on Rachel as her right hand at work. Wessling said, “Rachel is a very inspiring person. For someone that has a disability, she does not hold back on what she needs to do or what she wants to do. She has no fear.” Bank Manager Todd Ruggeri adds, “Rachel has the best outlook on life. She never gets upset or discouraged.”

APD Human Services Counselor Jose Delvalle is Doeble’s Support Coordinator. Delvalle said, “When I first met Rachel, I saw a person who wants to achieve her goals. She is a capable and an independent person who can handle any situation with thoughtfulness.”

Doeble is a living a success story. Not only does she work full-time as a bank teller, but she is also a wife, mother, step-mother, and provides a loving home for her family. Doeble wants to encourage others that have a disability to be persistent and persevere through difficulties and roadblocks, to reach their dreams. Doeble said, “Don’t let negative thoughts get in your way. Play to your own strengths and this will assist you. Never be afraid to ask for help, especially at your workplace.”


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People First! Advocate Award

The Ridge Area Arc’s People First! Advocate Award honors an individual, group or organization which consistently demonstrate a leadership role in the advocacy of people with developmental disabilities. Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Employment Liaison Jenny Sykes was presented with the Advocate Award on May 16 in Avon Park. Ridge Area Arc CEO Rhonda Beckman said “She is an exemplary advocate for APD customers throughout Hardee, Highlands, and Polk counties.”

Sykes coordinates multiple activities of agencies, service organizations, businesses, and providers to champion, educate, and promote hiring practices that target individuals with developmental disabilities. She works very closely with Ridge Area Arc’s supported employment staff to identify barriers and various misconceptions that employers may have about hiring individuals with disabilities.

Sykes also works to facilitate open lines of communication with family members and other natural supports of APD customers so they understand the Social Security Work Incentives and benefits are still retained. It goes without saying that her tenacity has paid off. She has provided the foundation to cultivate new business partnerships, develop community awareness, and helped employers understand the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities.

Jenny Sykes wins award

Jenny Sykes wins award

Jenny Sykes is recognized by the Arc

Jenny Sykes is recognized by the Arc


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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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The Governor’s Corner by Governor Rick Scott

Governor Rick Scott

Photo Credit Meredyth Hope Hall

We recently reached a great victory when the It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget was signed into law.  With the support of Florida’s public servants, our state has experienced incredible growth during the past three years. Our unemployment rate is down to 6.2 percent and Florida’s private sector has created more than 600,400 jobs since December 2010. Floridians all across the state are finding more opportunities to work and provide for their families. The investments in this budget will help Florida maintain our positive economic momentum as our state continues to add jobs and opportunities for families.

Some of the highlights in this year’s budget include investments in job growth, cancer research, Florida’s children and seniors, individuals with disabilities, state infrastructure, veterans and their families, our state’s  natural treasures, and historic funding for K-12 education, state colleges, and universities. This Budget’s investments in Florida’s future will help our great state continue on a path towards prosperity and opportunity for generations to come.

 

This story and more in the June issue of The Champion