Florida ARF & RESPECT of Florida Recognize Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month

Tallahassee, FL (April 1, 2021) April is Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month. This month, Florida ARF and RESPECT of Florida are focusing on ways we can build opportunities, promote change, and empower individuals with autism. While we always work to educate others about autism, the need for acceptance is greater than ever, as we strive for individuals with autism to live fully in all areas of life. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the prevalence of autism in the United States has risen from 1 in 125 children in 2010 to 1 in 54 in 2020 and 1 in 45 adults in our community. Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States, recognizing this continued increase, the goal for this month is to further increase awareness about autism signs, symptoms, and opportunities. Together, we can make a better world for those with Autism! 


Florida ARF Promotes Awareness During Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Tallahassee, FL (March 1, 2021) March is Developmental Disabilities (DD) Awareness Month and is a time when Florida ARF and its members seek to enhance awareness about the inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in all aspects of community life. 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. 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 direct care wages to continue to provide an array of community supports and services. Our advocacy and education during DD Awareness Month is key to ensure the futures of Floridians with disabilities!


Florida ARF Participates in Virtual DD Consortium

Tallahassee, FL (February 5, 2021) Florida ARF participated in the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council 2021 Virtual Consortium along with other stakeholders who serve individuals with disabilities. The Consortium is a time where stakeholders come together to discuss legislative priorities leading in to the Legislative Session and to identify where the various groups can work together. Florida ARF shared our 2021 Platform which focuses on the need for provider rate increases for four iBudget services, adequate base level funding for ICFs to cover the cost of care, as well as the addition of the Level of Care III to serve individuals with maladaptive behaviors in ICFs. The rising minimum wage and its impact was one of the main items of discussion across various platforms. Many agencies are trying to navigate how the rising minimum wage is going to affect their industry. Stakeholders agreed that we all have a heavy lift this Session with the COVID pandemic still going which has caused budget issues and the increase in minimum wage.


Florida ARF Announces Retirement of President & CEO

Tallahassee, FL (January 4, 2021) It is with sadness that the Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (Florida ARF) announces the January 31, 2021, retirement of President & CEO Suzanne Sewell. Over the last 12 years, Sewell worked diligently to ensure the success of the Association, its membership, and Florida’s state set-aside program known as RESPECT of Florida which creates job opportunities for individuals with disabilities. During her tenure, Sewell consistently worked with providers and stakeholders to achieve the Association’s mission of promoting the interests of individuals with disabilities by acting as a public policy change agent and promoting and serving the interests of community human service provider organizations. As one member responded, “You have guided and advocated for agencies and the needs of those in their care so they can live safe and meaningful lives. Your efforts will never be construed as short-lived as you will have left behind a promising future for people with disabilities.” Suzanne has a 45+ year history in human services management and has worked at the Association since July 2003.

According to Suzanne, “I consider it a blessing and privilege to have served as the Florida ARF President & CEO. I leave humbled and in awe of the great work so many providers demonstrate daily. Floridians with disabilities are fortunate to have so many caring, committed providers who work tirelessly to meet their needs. Please know that I leave the Association with nothing but best wishes and appreciation for the Board of Directors, member agencies, RESPECT of Florida partners, staff, and others involved with the Association. In many ways, I would love to continue the work that is being done but it is now time for me to focus on other matters and “pass the baton” to someone else.

Suzanne plans to travel with her husband Jim (post COVID) and to actively volunteer with a faith-based program that serves homeless individuals. As she says, “Once a Social Worker, always a Social Worker.”