Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is celebrated in March, which also marks the beginning of the Florida legislative session this year. As director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), now is also the time to share the needs we hope the Legislature will fund when members pass their final budget.
APD helps people with seven developmental disabilities: severe forms of autism, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome. APD offers services that help them actively live, learn and work in their communities.
On March 14, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will consider a resolution, sponsored by Attorney General Pam Bondi, to declare March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in our state. The Cabinet will hear from Adam Longfellow, who works at the Chick-fil-A restaurant on Bradfordville Road in Tallahassee. After being on the job for more than a year, having a job at Chick-fil-A is his pleasure saying: “I want to work. I provide excellent customer service. A job gives me responsibility, and a chance to interact with customers.” His duties include assisting guests, and ensuring the dining area is neat and clean. Adam’s boss, Chick-fil-A Senior Director Brian Carroll, said, “Adam is ready to help, he listens well, and is a joy to work with. Adam has a great sense of humor. He wants to and is ready to learn, and can take correction when needed.”
The governor has included two important proposals in his 2017-18 “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget to benefit people who are waiting for state-funded community services from APD.
He is recommending $7.5 million to offer Medicaid waiver enrollment to more than 680 individuals with critical needs on the APD waiver waiting list. Additionally, he is proposing $3.3 million for employment programs for people on the waiting list. The money would pay for things like job coaches, uniforms, transportation, and on-the-job training to help individuals learn job skills and gain experience in the workforce. Having a job will help them be more independent and less reliant on others to meet their needs.
During this special month of March devoted to promoting the abilities of those APD serves, we ask for the public’s support. We know waiting list and employment funding will make a big difference in the lives of people with disabilities and their families.
BARBARA PALMER, TALLAHASSEE
Editor’s note: Barbara Palmer is director of the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities.