Florida ARF & RESPECT of Florida Recognize Autism Acceptance Month

Tallahassee, FL (April 1, 2023) During Autism Acceptance Month, Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida celebrate and promote acceptance for the condition that is now the fastest growing developmental disorder in the United States, which occurs in one in every 36 children. Autism, a complex developmental condition affecting the individual’s ability to interact, communicate, and progress has not one but many subtypes. Autism Acceptance Month emphasizes the need for public awareness to recognize the importance of supporting, understanding, accepting, including, and empowering people on the autism spectrum in our community.

In celebration of Autism Awareness Month, Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida honors the contribution of Floridians on the autism spectrum in our state and are focusing on ways we can build opportunities, promote change, and empower individuals with autism. We join other organizations in recognizing the needs of people on the autism spectrum to lead full and successful lives. Together, we can make a better world for those with Autism!


Florida ARF Celebrates Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Tallahassee, FL (March 2023) March is Developmental Disabilities (DD) Awareness Month and is a time when Florida ARF, our members, and stakeholders seek to enhance awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all aspects of community life. March 2023 is the 36th year the United States has recognized and celebrated Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The 2023 theme, “Beyond the Conversation,” seeks to increase awareness of the need for inclusivity in all areas of community life for people with developmental disabilities, as well as awareness of the barriers that people with disabilities sometimes face in connecting with their communities.

The history of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month began in 1987 with a proclamation made by President Ronald Reagan declaring March as a month dedicated to raising awareness and “according to our fellow citizens with such disabilities both encouragement and the opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.” It signaled the beginning of social changes in America and was only further cemented by the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. Each March presents an opportunity to spark a national conversation to address the forward progress of individuals with disabilities. As a community, we strive to work together to assemble an array of services and supports that empower people with disabilities to live increasingly fulfilling and independent lives. Florida ARF was pleased to be a part of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day at the Capitol on March 14th. We encourage you to join in the conversation and share the needs of individuals with disabilities especially as we have important issues that need legislative support to increase funding in order to provide an array of community supports and services. Our advocacy and education during DD Awareness Month are key to ensure the futures of Floridians with disabilities!


Florida ARF Shares 2023 Legislative Platform During Annual Consortium

Tallahassee, FL (February 3, 2023) Florida ARF joined with multiple stakeholders and self-advocates in the disabilities field to review each entity’s 2023 Legislative Platform. The event was sponsored by the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council. Florida ARF President & CEO Tyler Sununu presented the Association’s platform and stressed the need for provider rate relief to address recurring operational and labor costs to offset cost increases and inflation. Sununu reported that providers have found that 70% of their total cost of providing services goes to DSP wages, but the other 30% of the business has not been accounted for when giving increases. While the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has increased by 20% over the last five years, an increase for non-wage operational costs has not been addressed yet. Sununu reported that a joint survey conducted by Florida ARF and The Arc of Florida showed that 85% of providers said the new rates do not cover their costs. He also discussed needed funding for the community Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/IIDs). Participating organizations expressed that they recognize the strain that exists within the provider network that serves individuals with disabilities. Florida ARF looks forward to working collaboratively with other stakeholders to address the funding needs for programs serving individual with disabilities.


Florida ARF Looks Forward to Working with New Agency Leaders

Tallahassee, FL (January 31, 2023) As we enter a new year, we see many changes occurring. At the beginning of the month, the inaugural events for Governor DeSantis occurred along with the swearing in of the Florida Cabinet. However, we have been awaiting word on leadership posts from the DeSantis Administration as leaders have stepped down in many positions.

Last week, after weeks and weeks of speculation on who would take the helm at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) and the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) the announcement finally came from the Executive Office of the Governor.

Taylor Hatch will serve as the Director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). She is currently the Deputy Secretary at the Department of Children and Families (DCF), has extensive experience in workforce development, and has been integral in launching First Lady Casey DeSantis’ Hope Florida initiative. Hatch previously served as DCF’s Assistant Secretary for Economic Self-Sufficiency and as the Director of Workforce Services at the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Jason Weida will serve as Secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). He is currently the interim secretary at the agency, and prior to that, served as AHCA’s chief of staff and Assistant Deputy Secretary for Medicaid Policy. Weida previously served as a senior official at the U.S. Department of Justice and has experience working at a global law firm.

Florida ARF looks forward to working with Director Hatch and Secretary Weida on issues of importance to members.