Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet have declared March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in our state. As director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, I hear daily about the wonderful accomplishments that the people APD serves have made.
Those born with developmental disabilities are vital members of our community and have much to contribute if given the opportunity. During this month, APD and its partners hope to share information about the great things being done by people with developmental disabilities, like Donald Duscher of Ocala. Duscher drives his Ford pickup truck to Lowe’s home improvement store each day and has been working there for seven years. He assists customers with taking their purchases to their vehicles and operates a forklift. Duscher tries hard to provide excellent service, and he says he “gets to see people, including my friends, at work, and I like the customers.” Gov. Scott is a great advocate for our program that serves people with developmental disabilities, and he has included two great proposals in his Florida Families First budget that will benefit people who are waiting for community services from APD.
He is proposing $2.5 million for employment programs for people on the APD Medicaid-waiver waiting list. The money would pay for job coaches and on-the-job training, which would be blended with efforts from Vocational Rehabilitation, the Department of Economic Opportunity and other agencies that are involved with employment. These efforts will be compounded to serve more than 1,000 individuals in life-changing ways providing sustainable employment.
Gov. Scott is also recommending $36 million to enroll individuals from the waiting list, which includes 22,000 people, onto the waiver. People with the most critical needs will receive funding, and we expect to begin providing community services to more than 750 individuals. After eight long years with no funding for the waiting list, families now have hope.
APD and our stakeholders are asking legislators to support Gov. Scott’s Florida Families First budget proposal with the money earmarked for Floridians with developmental disabilities. The agency wants to help all people with developmental disabilities in our state, and we want to spread the word and ask for the public’s support.
We are hopeful that this waiting-list funding will be approved so that the dreams of the disabled can be fulfilled and they can go to work and be active in their communities just like everyone else.
Barbara Palmer, director, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Tallahassee