Florida ARF Joins Governor & Florida Cabinet to Highlight Program to Match Floridians with Disabilities to Jobs
Tallahassee, FL (December 10, 2014) Florida ARF joined other stakeholders as Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet highlighted efforts to assist employers in finding and hiring talented individuals with disabilities. During the Cabinet Meeting, a presentation included an overview of the new Abilities Work Web Portal and Help Desk to help link employers to job seekers who have disabilities. This initiative was recommended by Governor Scott’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities. Presenters also discussed the commitment among multiple interagency partners involved with the Employment First Initiative who are working to prioritize employment options for individuals with disabilities 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, are all participants in the Employment First Initiative. President & CEO Suzanne Sewell commented: “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.”
RESPECT of Florida Cosponsors Hiring Abilities 2014 Symposium and Job Fair
Tallahassee, FL (November 3, 2014) RESPECT of Florida joined other stakeholders in cosponsoring the Hiring Abilities 2014 Symposium and Career Fair in Jacksonville, FL. Several RESPECT partner Employment Centers and staff were in attendance during the symposium presentations and breakout sessions. The event was well attended with participants hearing about many success stories and tips regarding employment of individuals with disabilities. Following the symposium and lunch, individuals with abilities participated in the job fair. “The level of community support and private business involvement was indeed impressive, and we hope to replicate this model in other parts of the state,” stated Florida ARF President & CEO / Interim RESPECT of Florida Executive Director Suzanne Sewell.
Florida ARF, RESPECT of Florida, & Members Participate in Disability Employment Awareness Events
Tallahassee, FL (October 1, 2014) Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida joined State Agency Heads, individuals with disabilities, and employers to celebrate Disability Employment Awareness Month during the 9th Annual Exceptional Employers Award event at City Hall. Seven organizations that hire people with disabilities were recognized by the state of Florida for being exceptional employers of people with disabilities. President & CEO Suzanne Sewell was a featured speaker at the event explaining how Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida are promoting employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida were pleased to support the event with award plaques made by employees with disabilities from Gadsden ARC. Individuals from Gadsden ARC were on hand to show off the plaques they produce through the RESPECT program.
Florida ARF & FADSP Celebrate Direct Support Professionals (DSP) Recognition Week
Tallahassee, FL (September 7, 2014) This week, September 7-13, 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 DSPs who give so freely of themselves to serve others.
August – A Very Good Month for Advocacy Activity
Tallahassee, FL (August 30, 2014) We are pleased to report that during the month of August Florida ARF was busy advocating for services and supports to respond to the needs of individuals with disabilities. Florida ARF worked with several stakeholder groups, and in particular with the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, to review strategies and ideas on how Florida can develop more community based options for children residing in nursing homes. Also, we met with stakeholders from the Council to address the following concerns: prevention of abuse and neglect for individuals with disabilities; how to address the Agency for Persons with Disabilities waitlist; and, Employment First partnership efforts coordinated by the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council. We conclude the month by observing that Floridians with disabilities are fortunate to have so many advocates working to promote positive changes in Florida’s health and human services systems.
Florida ARF Members Begin Developing 2015 Platform
Tampa, FL (July 30, 2014) Member agencies from across the state met to develop the Association’s draft platform for the 2015 Legislative Session. The common concern members addressed was the need for provider rate reinstatement to ensure continued capacity to serve individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities in the community. Members noted since 2003 reimbursement rates have been cut 14.17% on average while the cost of living has increased 32.13% and minimum wage earnings have increased 54%. For private ICF/IIDs, the statutorily required rate freeze is driving rates down and this issue will again be a focus for ICFs. The draft platform will be approved during the Annual Business Meeting of the Association.
Florida ARF Participates in “Sweet Sixteen” Family Café
Tallahassee, FL (June 9, 2014) Florida ARF President & CEO Suzanne Sewell and Consultant Susan Goldstein represented the Association during the “Sweet Sixteen” 16th Annual Family Cafe which was held June 6-8, 2014, at the Hilton Orlando. This three-day conference provided a venue for individuals with disabilities and their families to learn about available services, connect with policymakers, and network with each other. NFL legend and disability advocate Dan Marino discussed his advocacy through the Dan Marino Foundation and the opening of the Marino Campus for students with disabilities in Fort Lauderdale on Friday evening. On Saturday morning, Governor Rick Scott joined The Annual Governor's Summit on Disabilities to share his vision for Floridians with disabilities and to hear from attendees about the issues that are most important to them.
Florida ARF Representatives Participate in ANCOR Conference
Miami, FL (May 7, 2014) This year ANCOR, our National Affiliate, hosted their 2014 national conference, Beyond the Envelope, in beautiful, sunny Miami on May 4-6, 2014. Florida ARF staff and members participated in the three day event. Participants heard from national leaders on the role we play in transforming the way individuals with disabilities are supported and how to move toward a more powerful community voice. Other sessions included fostering innovative support practices, testing of the “Google Glass” to enable individuals to enhance their lives, studying the managed care experiment in Kansas, assessing the impact of the new federal Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Rule, raising the bar for HCBS services, and reviewing the Department of Labor Home Care Rule to name a few. Direct Support Professionals were recognized and challenged to prepare themselves to become leaders in the field. Florida ARF staff came away with valuable information and gained new contacts on behalf of the Association. Staff were also able to visit several member agencies in the South Florida area which is always an enjoyable experience. Our member agencies are truly making a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities!
Florida ARF Extends a “Shout Out” to Member Agencies and Our Government Relations Team
Tallahassee, FL (April 28, 2014) On behalf of the Association staff, we say “Thank you, thank you, thank you” to our Government Relations Team and to our members who came to Tallahassee, made contacts with their Legislators, or encouraged Board Members and families to communicate their needs and the needs of the individuals they serve. Much has been accomplished this year because so many of you were involved at the right time. While we truly enjoy being your voice, the message is so much louder when so many participate. So, stay tuned and stay plugged in!
Florida ARF & Member Agencies Celebrate DD Days
Tallahassee, FL (March 18, 2014) Florida ARF and several member agencies along with other DD stakeholders gathered to celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day at the Capitol. The morning kicked off with Attorney General Pam Bondi issuing a proclamation during the Cabinet Meeting declaring March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. During the press conference, sponsored by the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council and The Arc of Florida, stakeholders expressed the need to serve the waitlist over the next few years as well as the need for a provider rate increase to ensure quality care for the individuals served. Florida ARF members and staff visited numerous legislators and their staff to convey the needs of our members as outlined in the Association’s platform. Several member agencies spoke with APD Director Barbara Palmer about the issues and needs of community agency providers. Florida ARF commends the advocacy efforts of our members!
Legislative Session Begins March 4, 2014
Tallahassee, FL (February 28, 2014) On March 4, lawmakers will come to Tallahassee to begin the 2014 Legislative Session, and their number one responsibility will be to produce a 2014 General Appropriations Act that will govern funding levels for all State entities for Fiscal Year 2014-2015. Since our members rely heavily on state revenues, the Legislative Session is a very important event. Fortunately, State revenues are trending upward but this also means many competing entities will be requesting revenues to offset funding reductions implemented over the last several years. Florida ARF member agencies are encouraged to stay involved so they can clearly communicate the needs of the individuals served to those who will appropriate funding levels. In this regard, we hope to see each and every one of you in Tallahassee over the next nine weeks along with the individuals you serve. Let’s make sure that no Florida Legislator completes the 2014 Legislative Session without understanding the needs of the individuals you serve, and that they know about the great work our member agencies perform on a daily basis! We firmly believe that once lawmakers understand the unmet need and the lack of resources available to respond to that need, the outcomes will be favorable.
Governor’s Budget Looks Promising for Community Agencies
Tallahassee, FL (January 29, 2014) Florida Governor Rick Scott released his budget recommendations for FY 14-15 today. His recommended budget looks to be positive for member agencies but work will need to be done to achieve the Association’s Platform priorities. President & CEO Suzanne Sewell stated “The Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities and its member agencies are delighted to see that Governor Scott has again responded to the needs of families and individuals who are on the waiting list for services. Also, we are pleased that the Governor is seeking funding for Supported Employment services so that individuals with developmental disabilities can realize their employment goals. Finally, we want to thank Governor Scott for participating in so many APD Town Hall meetings over the last year and for taking the time to learn about the needs of the individuals served by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Governor Scott has shown that he is a true advocate for Floridians with disabilities. His proposed budget demonstrates this commitment.” The Governor’s Budget serves as a guiding document to begin drafting the state’s annual budget, but the Florida Legislature will ultimately make funding recommendations. Below are a few key items from the Governor’s Budget.
Department of Education, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation