The Ebb and Flow of the Legislative Process

Tallahassee, FL (April 30, 2019) Since March 5th, we have been watching, tracking, and responding to the “ebb and flow” of the 2019 legislative session.  Overall, this session has been less stressful than some.  “Waiting to see what happens next” has been the unique feature of this year’s session.  We began with Senate and House ICF/IID funding appropriation recommendations in agreement and at a level that should cover provider costs.  To date we have not seen substantive legislation or proviso language that would radically alter the service systems that impact individuals with disabilities.

Provider rate increase recommendations appeared early in the Appropriations process for one iBudget service (Residential Habilitation), whereas we sought increases for three services (Residential Habilitation, Adult Day Training, and Personal Supports).  In the final Appropriations Conference Committee meeting, Conference Chairs Senator Bradley and Representative Cummings agreed to $28,719,294 in funding for a uniform rate increase for Residential Habilitation providers to use exclusively to increase the salaries of direct care staff.  Proviso language for this increase directs APD to submit a report to the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the chair of the House Appropriations Committee by December 1, 2019, that evaluates the impact of the rate increase on the average salary of direct care staff who provide residential habilitation services.  Florida ARF will be working with APD and stakeholders on the implementation of this increased funding and tracking and keeping members apprised of the process.

While we did not receive an increase for the three services in our platform, we are very appreciative for the funding we did receive this year when the climate in Tallahassee was to curb healthcare spending.  Florida ARF says “thank you” to everyone who worked to educate their lawmakers on the need for additional funding to increase direct care staff wages.  Finally, a special “Shout Out” goes to our Government Relations Consultants Ron Book and Kelly Mallette who work so hard on our behalf!


Florida ARF Recognizes March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Tallahassee, FL (March 20, 2019) Florida ARF joined with other stakeholders to recognize March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness month.  We were pleased to attend Governor DeSantis’ March 12th Cabinet and support the Agency for Persons with Disabilities as our Governor presented a resolution declaring March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in Florida.  President and CEO Suzanne Sewell, along with Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida staff, participated in DD Days at the Capitol on March 20th, and many of our members were in attendance.  Sewell encouraged attendees to educate their lawmakers on the hiring crisis providers are facing and to explain the need for wage increases for direct care staff so they can earn fair wages.  Following the DD Day events, Florida ARF member agencies met with their lawmakers and attended forum sessions to review policies and concerns with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Agency for Health Care Administration, and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.  The above initiatives were all great opportunities to raise awareness about the needs of individuals with disabilities.


Florida ARF & Stakeholders Support Employment of Individuals with Disabilities

Tallahassee, FL (February 20, 2019) Today, Florida ARF and other stakeholders attended the Florida House of Representatives Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee to support testimony provided by David Darm from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.  Darm explained the state of employment for individuals with disabilities and encouraged the Committee members to support options that assist individuals in achieving their employment goals.  Florida ARF dba as RESPECT of Florida was pleased that one of the success stories featured was an individual who received a RESPECT microenterprise grant.  According to President & CEO Suzanne Sewell, Darm’s testimony was well received by Committee members and helped raised awareness about the barriers confronting many individuals and their families who want to work. 


Florida ARF Represents Member Agencies on Governor DeSantis’ Transition Advisory Committee on Health & Wellness

Tallahassee, FL (January 30, 2019) Florida ARF President & CEO Suzanne Sewell was pleased to serve on Governor Ron DeSantis’ Transition Advisory Committee on Health and Wellness.  The committee was comprised of a diverse group of health care experts from a variety of different medical fields, as well as health care providers, addiction counselors, and mental health professionals, in addition to current and former leaders of Florida’s health care system.  Sewell and the other committee members advised the Transition Team as they developed their plan to implement Governor DeSantis’ vision of empowering patients and expanding provider reach, fighting addiction and mental health problems, and protecting Florida’s most vulnerable populations while lowering costs and respecting taxpayers’ money.

On behalf of the membership, Sewell submitted the following recommendations to the new Administration:

  • Address the Direct Care Hiring Crisis,
  • Adopt a “Substantial Compliance” Concept for iBudget Medicaid Waiver Services,
  • Conduct a Comprehensive Review of Regulatory Requirements to Eliminate Documentation Requirements That Are Overly Burdensome and Do Not Have a Clear Relationship to Client Health, Safety, and Quality of Care,
  • Task Involved Agencies (APD, DBPR Building Code, and the Department of Insurance - State Fire Marshal) to Resolve Contradictory Requirements for Licensure of Homes that Serve Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities,
  • Fund Cost of Medicaid Transportation Services for Providers, and
  • Pursue Use of Remote Technology.

Florida ARF looks forward to working with the new Administration to address these and other issues that affect the lives of individuals with disabilities and the provider agencies that exist to provide quality services for individuals with disabilities.