Since Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took office in January, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) has accomplished many milestones to benefitAPD customers.
Staff and providers for APD have been hard at work this year meeting the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities. APD serves more than 55,000 Floridians with severe forms of autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome.
APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “We are excited about the many successes achieved by APD and its outstanding employees and providers over the past year. I want to thank Governor DeSantis for his leadership and support of individuals with developmental disabilities in our state. APD has enrolled more than 1,000 people onto the waiver from the waiting list this year. These individuals have very critical needs that now can be met. Our iBudget waiver is helping 35,000 people live and participate in their local communities. We are helping more than 2,000 people with disabilities to go to work so they can become more self-sufficient. We are changing people’s lives for the better.”
The following is a list of APD’s accomplishments over the past year:
- APD held five regional training sessions to certify Assessors in order to participate in the statewide field test of the Next Generation Questionnaire for Situational Information (NGQSI). Between February and March 2019, 84 Assessors were certified through the trainings to administer assessments during the field test. Validity and reliability studies were finalized in 2019, and APD will conduct a replication study in 2020. Once finalized, the NGQSI will replace the Questionnaire for Situational Information (QSI), which is the assessment tool used to evaluate the needs of customers the agency serves.
- In February 2019, the annual Tim Tebow Foundation Night to Shine Prom for adults with special needs took place simultaneously at various venues throughout the state of Florida. A plethora of volunteers, including many APD employees across the state, worked tirelessly to ensure that the hundreds of APD clients in attendance enjoyed a memorable evening. This event was an opportunity for teens and adults with special needs to have a magical evening designed just for them. Guests enjoyed everything free of charge from limo rides to corsages, shoeshines, dinner, dancing, hair styling, and make-up services. In addition, the parents of these individuals were treated to a catered dinner and a relaxing evening away from their caregiving responsibilities.
- APD, in collaboration with a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services-contracted technical assistance provider, New Editions, is working to increase opportunities for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities to access competitive community employment. To achieve this objective, APD held four public meetings, beginning in May 2019, to solicit input from stakeholders, including self-advocates, family members, guardians, providers, APD, and other state agencies via a series of stakeholder meetings. The purpose of the meetings was to assist APD in improving Adult Day Training (ADT) and employment-related services, funded by the Medicaid Developmental Disabilities Individualized Budgeting (iBudget Florida) Home and Community-Based Services waiver, and to support more individuals who want to work and participate in their communities.
- APD helped 2,861 Floridians with disabilities on the waiver with maintaining gainful employment in 2019. Additionally, the agency provided 461 individuals on the waiting list with supported employment services to obtain and maintain employment. This was a 22% increase from 2018.
- Based on requirements in statute and rule related to the iBudget waiver, APD has a Significant Additional Needs (SAN) process to assist in meeting the health and safety needs of individuals receiving waiver services. The SAN review process helps to ensure that individuals on the iBudget waiver receive medically necessary services at the appropriate intensity, frequency, and duration, and in a cost-effective manner. The agency began centralizing the SAN review process this year to promote efficiency and consistency in the application of medical necessity criteria. Centralization will help ensure consistent training and oversight of SAN reviewers, including increased clinical oversight, improve tracking and reporting, promote interrater reliability/peer review process, promote business efficiencies related to hearing coordination, increase regional fiscal responsibility with the monitoring of ongoing waiver service needs, and increase efficiencies with the monitoring and technical assistance of Waiver Support Coordinator providers at the regional level.
- APD employees delivered 11 presentations at The Family Café Conference in Orlando, plus manned an informational booth with knowledgeable employees to answer questions. This conference has more than 10,000 attendees and is designed for families who have a member with a disability. The informational sessions help families find the resources to meet their loved ones’ needs. Additionally, APD supported the Sunday morning session with Governor DeSantis as the keynote speaker.
- With $28.7 million in recurring funds approved by Governor DeSantis and the Legislature, APD increased Residential Habilitation provider rates to raise the pay of Direct Care workers in group homes beginning July 1.
- The agency’s online TRAIN Florida Learning Management System (LMS) continues to see an increase in registered users. Agency users (including providers) have completed over 922,000 courses since the system’s launch in 2016.
- Consumer-Directed Care Plus (CDC+) increased enrollment to 3,434 individuals, who are managing their own services in the HCBS waiver program. This was an 8% increase from 2018.
- The agency’s Communications Office won five awards in April 2019 from the local Florida Public Relations Association’s (FPRA) Capital Chapter. The agency received an Image Award and a Judges’ Award for its Carlton Palms Transition Campaign, an Image Award and a Judges’ Award for its Choosing the Right Home Provider Guide, and a Judges’ Award for its Disability Employment Awareness Campaign. At the statewide FPRA Golden Image Awards in August 2019, the agency won one award. The agency received a Judges’ Award for the “Choosing the Right Home” Provider Guide at FPRA’s 81st Annual Conference. The guide was created for residents of Carlton Palms and their families to help them choose a new home for their loved one as the facility was closing.
- APD and the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) submitted a waiver redesign plan on September 30 for legislative consideration, pursuant to Section 26, Chapter 2019-116, Laws of Florida.
- APD and its partners hosted the 14th annual Disability Employment Awareness Month Celebration and Exceptional Employer Awards at City Hall in Tallahassee in October 2019. A total of 12 businesses from around the state were recognized for their commitment to inclusion in the workplace by hiring and retaining those with disabilities. The 12 award-winning businesses were:
- Accuform Manufacturing
- Aramark Dining Services at Jacksonville University
- Army and Air Force Exchange Service
- Bob’s Space Racers
- Chartwells at the University of Miami
- Cleveland Clinic Martin Health
- The Home Depot
- Florida Department of Revenue
- Golden Corral
- The Chocolate Spectrum
- Wawa, Inc.
- ZVRS of Clearwater
- On October 26, Sunland Center in Marianna hosted its 40th Fall Festival on campus. More than 2,000 attended the festival in Jackson County. Employees, residents, and the community enjoyed a parade, arts and crafts, and delicious food.
- The Tacachale Center in Gainesville hosted its 35th annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, plus a Holiday Parade in December 2019. Both were festive events for all participants.
- From January through December 2019, the APD Call Center answered more than 16,000 calls from customers and families served by the agency, as well as many citizens who don’t have developmental disabilities. Representatives provide personalized service and a listening ear to help individuals find solutions. Also, the Communications Office handled more than 2,160 correspondence inquiries from January through December 2019.
- Through the APD Florida Navigator online contact request form, APD was able to connect 387 families to their local Family Care Council.
- The 15 Family Care Councils, which are the agency’s advisory groups, hosted forums, conferences, and presentations throughout the year:
- The Area 8 Family Care Council hosted financial seminars for individuals with developmental disabilities, featuring Department of Financial Services’ My Money Program in January.
- The Area 4 Family Care Council hosted the 5th Annual Connecting the Dots Conference in April.
- The Area 1 Family Care Council hosted financial seminars for individuals with developmental disabilities, featuring Department of Financial Services My Money Program in May.
- The Family Care Councils of Florida joined together to present “Things You Wish You Knew” at The 21st Annual Family Café conference in June.
- The Area 8 Family Care Council hosted travel seminars for individuals with developmental disabilities, featuring the Department of Homeland Security TSA Cares program in June.
- The Area 13 Family Care Council hosted an iBudget Redesign Family Forum in October.
- Representatives from each of the 15 Family Care Councils gathered in Orlando to meet with APD staff and various stakeholders in January, March, May, July, September, and November.
APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 55,000 Floridians with disabilities. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit APDcares.org or call toll-free 1‑866‑APD‑CARES (1‑866‑273‑2273).