Florida ARF & RESPECT of Florida Staff Wish You Happy Holidays & Best Wishes for 2014
Tallahassee, FL (November 18, 2013) The staff of Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida wish each of our member agencies, employment centers, and stakeholders a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2014. Our Board of Directors and staff are committed to assisting each of the over 100 community agencies we represent to achieve their mission to provide quality services and supports to individuals with disabilities. Florida ARF and RESPECT thank each of you for allowing us the opportunity to represent your interests over the last year. We look forward to serving you in 2014!
Florida ARF & RESPECT of Florida Celebrate Disability Employment Awareness Month
Tallahassee, FL (October 9, 2013) Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida joined the Governor, State Agency Heads, individuals with disabilities, and employers to celebrate Disability Employment Awareness Month during the 8th Annual Exceptional Employers Award event at City Hall. Governor Rick Scott recognized seven businesses for their commitment to employing people with disabilities during the event. Governor Scott said, "These businesses have done an incredible job in providing jobs and opportunities for individuals with disabilities. We have to support families’ efforts to find jobs for their loved ones, and that’s why my Florida Families First Budget invested $500,000 to provide job training skills for individuals with disabilities. This is also why I issued an executive order to support state agency efforts to improve employment outcomes for persons with disabilities in the Sunshine State. Florida ARF and RESPECT were pleased to be able to support the event with door prizes and award plaques made by employees with disabilities from Gadsden ARC. President & CEO Suzanne Sewell was a part of stakeholders that joined the Florida Cabinet for the proclamation signing declaring October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Florida.
Florida ARF & FADSP Celebrate Direct Support Professionals (DSP) Recognition WeekThis week, September 8-14, Florida ARF & the Florida Alliance for Direct Support Professional (FADSP) are proudly celebrating DSP Recognition Week. DSPs across the state are being featured who represent the backbone of our direct care service system. Their stories clearly communicate the loving attitude and dedication of so many DSPs who give so freely of themselves to serve others.
Governor Rick Scott has signed a letter recognizing the Association for raising awareness of the DSP profession during Direct Support Professional Recognition Week. Scott stated “Direct support professionals provide a broad range of supports for many Floridians with disabilities. These dedicated professionals help citizens with disabilities by increasing their independence, keeping them connected with their family and community, and offer support and encouragement on a daily basis. Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week is a special opportunity to highlight the outstanding work of those who strive to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities.” We could not agree with Governor Scott more.
To all the DSPs across Florida, we offer a hearty “Thank you for all that you do!”
Florida ARF Board Chair Announces Retirement
Tallahassee, FL (August 23, 2013) Katie Porta, a member of Florida ARF for over 25 years and the current Board Chair, recently announced her retirement as the President/CEO of Quest, Inc. She is now the CEO Emeritus of Quest which is a highly regarded human services agency in central Florida that serves individuals with disabilities. Katie is now focusing on her health and wellness and will remain involved with Quest in her new capacity. No words can adequately convey our gratitude for Katie’s dedication to Florida ARF and our mission. Because of her efforts, thousands of individuals and families, and particularly children with Autism Disorders, have benefitted from the services and programs she has pioneered and managed. Katie Porta has been a tireless advocate for Florida ARF, its member agencies, and the individuals with disabilities our members serve and has been involved extensively in many of the legislative successes we have realized. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Katie know her as a dear friend and inspiring leader. Thank you Katie for your years of service to Florida ARF! Vice Chair Troy Strawder will serve as Acting Board Chair until the Florida ARF Annual Business Meeting occurs in mid-September and a new Chair is elected.
Florida ARF Participates in APD Town Hall Meeting
Panama City, FL (July 17, 2013) Florida ARF attended an APD Town Hall Meeting hosted by Governor Rick Scott and Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Director Barbara Palmer. Discussion centered around the state of the agency and highlighted the $36 million in funding from the 2013-2014 Florida Family First budget. Governor Scott said, “I want every Floridian, including those with disabilities, to have the opportunity to pursue their dreams of finding a job and live their version of the American dream. With our $36 million investment, we will be making a big impact on many families throughout the state. For the first time in eight years, we are helping more than 750 people move off the APD waiting list where they will receive the services they need to participate in their community and develop skills to find employment. I am pleased that many people in the Northwest Region are being move off of the APD waiting list.” Florida ARF President & CEO thanked the Governor and Representatives Gaetz and Patronis (who were in attendance) for the additional funding which will allow individuals on the waiting list to enroll in the APD Home and Community-Based Services Medicaid waiver and start receiving services in their local communities. Stakeholders, consumers, families, and public officials provided input on the great strides the Agency is making forward as well as pointed out areas the Agency can held the provider community and individuals served. Sewell testified on the need for additional resources to fund transportation services for iBudget waiver recipients.
Florida ARF President & CEO’s 10th Anniversary of Service Celebrated
Tallahassee, FL (June 12, 2013) During the Florida ARF Summer Meeting, Florida ARF Board of Directors Vice Chair Troy Strawder surprised President & CEO Suzanne Sewell with a plaque to commemorate her ten years of service to the Association. Over Sewell’s years of service she has served as a Medicaid Analyst, Director of Membership & Program Services, and for the last 4 ½ years as the President & CEO. Strawder along with the members thanked Sewell for her years of service, advocacy, and dedication to the Association. Congratulations Suzanne!
Florida ARF & Member Agencies Join Governor Scott to Celebrate $36 Million in Funding for APD Waiting List
Tallahassee, FL (May 31, 2013) Over the course of a few weeks, Governor Rick Scott visited Bishop Grady Villas, Pine Castle, and LARC to celebrate $36 million in funding for th e Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) waiver waiting list. Previously the Governor visited the Association for the Development of the Exceptional and Central Florida Communities to share his budget proposal. Florida ARF and disability stakeholders stood with Governor Scott in support of the increase in funding for APD in the 2013-2014 state budget. Governor Scott said, “I want every Floridian, including those with disabilities, to be able to follow their dreams. By investing $36 million in funding for APD for the first time in eight years, individuals with disabilities will be able to receive services in their communities and more people will be able to get the skills they need to have a job.” Florida ARF President & CEO Suzanne Sewell said, “Our membership is thrilled that Governor Scott and lawmakers truly placed Florida families first this year while balancing the need to invest in economic development issues and improvements to Florida’s educational system. We are delighted with the outcome of this budget and applaud all who supported the great initiatives within it. We are also pleased that the governor has visited so many community provider agencies to share his Florida Families First budget and to express his commitment to support job development opportunities for individuals with disabilities.”
The End is in Sight
Tallahassee, FL (April 29, 2013) As of today, we are in the last week of the 2013 Legislative Session, and most of the state agencies our member agencies work with fared well regarding budget appropriations and substantive policy legislation. Not having to fight budget cuts was indeed good! Also, it is rewarding to see the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) is beginning to receive funding to address its waitlist for DD services. Health care expansion was a contentious issue this year and is still being debated.
Florida ARF & Member Agencies Celebrate DD Days
Tallahassee, FL (March 7, 2013) Florida ARF and several member agencies along with other DD stakeholders gathered to celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day at the Capitol. During the press conference, Governor Rick Scott shared his proposed 2013-2014 budget of $1.1 billion for APD. This budget allocation provides $36 million in needed funding to people on the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) waitlist of more than 22,000 people. The Florida Families First Budget also includes $2.5 million to assist people on the waitlist who have indicated that they want to go to work. Governor Rick Scott said, “We are working to make sure every Florida family has the opportunity to get a job and a great education, and from our efforts – it’s working. Since December 2010, Florida has created around 200,000 private-sector jobs and our unemployment rate continues to drop. Our commitment to helping people on the APD waitlist, as well as assisting people who want to work, is another step in our plan to ensure that every Floridian has an opportunity to live the American Dream.” APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “We greatly appreciate Governor Scott’s support of our work to improve the agency. We have been meeting with families and stakeholders to determine the best approach to begin serving people on our waiting list. We hope the legislature will also see the importance of this critical funding for the agency. The additional money for employment opportunities will help individuals to become self-sufficient, enhance their quality of life, and benefit their families and Florida’s economy.” Florida ARF commends the Governor on his budget proposal and were happy to participate in DD Day 2013.
Florida ARF & Member Agencies Celebrate the Governor’s Announcement of $36 Million for APD Waiting List
Miami, FL (February 8, 2013) Florida Governor Rick Scott, joined by Florida ARF, member agencies, and other disability stakeholders, highlighted his Florida Families First 2013-2014 Budget, which provides $36 million in funding to people on the APD waiting list. The $36 million increase will allow an additional 750 individuals with critical needs on the waiting list to enroll in the APD Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Medicaid waiver so they will receive services in their local communities. Governor Scott made his announcement at the campus of the Association for the Development of the Exceptional (ADE) on North Miami Avenue. At the press conference, the Governor also highlighted a $2.5 million targeted investment through his budget that provides career services to individuals with disabilities that would open up job opportunities to 1,000 people. “We are truly thrilled to hear this great news and offer our heartfelt thanks to Governor Scott. The Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities applauds Governor Scott’s decision to step forward and meet the needs of Floridians with developmental disabilities. The addition of funding to enroll individuals on the developmental disabilities Medicaid waiver will greatly enhance the lives of these people and those who provide for their daily needs. Additionally, providing supported employment services for another 1,000 individuals means these individuals have the opportunity to achieve their employment goals for the first time in their lives,” said Florida ARF President & CEO Suzanne Sewell.
DD Stakeholders Meet to Share Legislative Platforms
Tallahassee, FL (January 31, 2013) Florida ARF joined with other Stakeholders who serve individuals with disabilities to share their 2013 Legislative Platforms and identify areas where the various groups could work together. The event was hosted by the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council and included presentations from the DD Council, Florida ARF, The Arc of Florida, the Florida Family Care Council, Disability Rights Florida, Florida Self Advocacy Alliance, Supported Employment providers, the Department of Education – Exceptional Student Education, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Florida ARF President & CEO Suzanne Sewell presented the Association’s 2013 Legislative Platform and responded to several questions from the participants.