Today, Governor Rick Scott was joined by Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Director, Barbara Palmer, to ceremonially sign the "Intellectual Disabilities" bill while co-hosting an APD Town Hall meeting.
Governor Rick Scott said, "It is our responsibility to protect those most vulnerable in our state. The "Intellectual Disabilities' bill will protect Floridians across the state from being labeled and ridiculed, offering them a chance to live a more peaceful life. In addition to this new law, I am proud that for the first time in eight years, with a $36 million investment, we will move more than 750 people off the APD waiting list so that they will receive the services they need to find a job."
The Intellectual Disabilities Bill removes the phrase "mental retardation" from state statutes and replaces it with "intellectual disabilities." "Mental retardation" was once considered a valid medical term, but over the years, it has developed into a slang term that promotes negative stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities.
Senator Thad Altman said, "I applaud the Governor and thank him for signing the Intellectual Disabilities bill, officially removing the "r-word" from Florida statutes. For too long Floridians with disabilities have been subjected to hurtful labels and it is about time we step up to the plate as Florida leaders and make these kinds of positive changes for citizens across the state."
Representative Janet Adkins said, "People with disabilities make up an important part of our social fabric here in Florida. These individuals add value to our families, our workplaces and our community in many ways. I am honored to have had the chance to lead the effort in the Florida House of Representatives to champion the passage of the intellectual disabilities legislation. This step forward brings Florida forward in how we include people with intellectual disabilities in our state. I remain committed to ensuring that Floridians with disabilities receive the support, recognition and care they need to thrive in the sunshine state. I applaud Gov. Rick Scott for his commitment to improving the lives of these Floridians and thank him for his support of this important legislation and the new $36 million in new resources for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities."
APD Director Barbara Palmer said, "I am so happy that Governor Scott and legislators took this opportunity to ceremonially sign the "R" word bill as part of our agency's Town Hall meeting today. This legislation is important to the people we serve, and I am thrilled that our governor and legislators have taken this critical step by changing Florida's law. Also, their involvement in the Town Hall meeting demonstrates their commitment to individuals with developmental disabilities. We appreciate Governor Scott co-hosting this Town Hall meeting and making our APD customers' concerns a priority."
Deborah Linton, executive director of The Arc of Florida said, "After three years of working to pass this legislation, self-advocates of The Arc of Florida were delighted to see legislators pass it unanimously and are thankful to Governor Scott for signing it. Removing the r-word from state statutes will not end bullying in Florida, but it shows individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities that they are respected."
During the Town Hall meeting, Governor Scott highlighted the $1.1 billion investment into APD that is part of the 2013-2014 Florida Families First budget. $36 million of that funding will allow individuals on the waiting list to enroll in the APD Home and Community-Based Services Medicaid waiver and start receiving services in their local communities. Those with the most critical needs will benefit from this new funding.
Donna Rauber, Orlando Area Family Care Council Chair said, "The funding in the Governor's budget is assisting individuals currently waiting for services. This budget increase allows individuals to obtain a better quality of living, learning and working in the community."
The Florida Families First budget also includes a one-time appropriation of $40 million ($17 million in state funding, $23 million federal match) to pay off the waiver deficit from prior fiscal years. With this funding, APD is projecting to be within its appropriation for the first time in many years.
In addition, the Florida Families First budget also includes about $500,000 to assist people on the waiver waiting list who have indicated that they want to go to work. The funding will pay for supported employment services to help 200 people with developmental disabilities obtain and maintain jobs and internships.