The Champion Newsletter
In This Issue:

  • Message from the Director
  • APD New Chief of Staff
  • Upcoming Events
  • iBudget Algorithm Update
  • ABLE Act
  • Recognizing Floridians with Developmental Disabilities

    By Barbara Palmer
    APD Director Barbara Palmer

    I regularly tell people that I have the best job and best team in state government serving as director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD).  Our agency helps people with developmental disabilities like autism, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. These individuals with disabilities have much to offer when given the opportunity.

    On March 10, Governor 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. March 5 is also Developmental Disabilities Day at the Capitol. We hope to see you in Tallahassee at the Capitol to support both events.

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    During March, APD and its partners hope to share information about the accomplishments being made by people with developmental disabilities. Talmadge Morton, 27, is excited to tell his story. He is married with three children. For the past six months, he has been working for the state as a Revenue Specialist II at the Child Support Enforcement Office within the Florida Department of Revenue.  This job has changed his life.  He is now able to provide for his family, and show what he is capable of accomplishing.

    Governor Scott continues to be a great APD advocate supporting APD programs that assist people with finding and keeping jobs. The Governor has included two important proposals in his 2015-2016 Keep Florida Working budget to benefit people who are waiting for or are receiving state-funded community services from APD.

    Governor Scott is recommending $8 million to enroll more than 400 individuals with critical needs from the waiting list onto the Medicaid waiver. This is the third year Governor Scott has recommended money to help people on the waiting list. Over the past two years, APD has offered community-based services to 2,800 individuals with critical needs. APD is excited to provide these needed services to those who have been waiting.

    Additionally, Governor Scott is proposing $2 million for employment programs for people on the waiver and waiting list.  The money would pay for things like job coaches, supported employment, and on-the-job training to help individuals learn job skills and gain experience in the workforce.

    APD stakeholders are encouraging Legislators to support Governor Scott’s Keep Florida Workingbudget proposal with $1.16 billion allocated for APD to serve Floridians with developmental disabilities. Government investing in services for its most vulnerable citizens allows them to go to work and become taxpaying citizens. By making this initial investment in services, individuals are able to participate in their communities and reduce their dependence on state resources and increase their independence.

    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. When we all work together, we can help make dreams turn into reality for Floridians like Talmadge Morton.



    APD New Chief of Staff

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    Karen Hagan has joined APD as its new Chief of Staff.  Hagan comes to APD from the American Red Cross where she served most recently as Chief Administrative Officer for North and Central Florida. She has spent 30 years working in various leadership positions with the Red Cross on National staff and in Florida.

    APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “I am thrilled that Karen will bring a wide variety of skills to our agency including legislative affairs, finance, grants, disaster relief, and personnel management.  She also has experience with disability related issues such as teaching disability etiquette, planning to accommodate people with special needs in shelters, and working with disability stakeholders.”

    Hagan’s first day at APD was February 16.



    Upcoming Events

    The Agency for Persons with Disabilities Communications Office represents the agency at many events in Tallahassee throughout the year. The following are upcoming events Communications will attend to promote our agency and its programs, and will be held at the Capitol unless otherwise noted:

    March 3 – Transportation Disadvantaged Day. Our agency knows that transportation can be an issue for many of our customers, and this event is to create awareness and support for the Transportation Disadvantaged program

    March 5 – Developmental Disabilities Day. This is a great opportunity for APD customers to self-advocate with legislators concerning services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities.

    March 10 – March Cabinet Meeting. The Cabinet will present a resolution recognizing March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in Florida. Director Barbara Palmer will speak at the Cabinet meeting and The Arc will also present information on its dental program.

    March 11 – Florida Tourism Day. The purpose of Florida Tourism Day is to educate the legislature, media, and Floridians about the importance of Florida’s tourism industry and the rationale for the public funding request to increase tourism marketing efforts. The agency will be promoting Rish Park at the event.

    March 12 – Prudential Productivity Awards ceremony. Florida TaxWatch annually recognizes state employees for their dedication to implementing cost savings initiatives that are above and beyond their regular job duties. This year’s ceremony will be held at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center.

    April 10 – SportsAbility. This event is hosted by Florida Disabled Outdoors Association and serves to enhance the lives of people with disabilities by promoting active living. SportsAbility Tallahassee is held at the Tallahassee Community College Lifetime Sports Complex.

    April 14 – Children’s Day. Children’s Week is dedicated to delivering the message that every child must be healthy, ready to learn, and able to achieve their full potential.

    April 15 – Florida Senior Day. This event affords Florida seniors the opportunity to exchange information and share ideas with legislators on important senior issues.

    The following upcoming events will be hosted at Sunland Center in Marianna:

    March 18 - Special Olympics – County Games (Jackson County – Sunland & Hope School).

    April 8 - Special Olympics – Area Games (Counties: Jackson, Calhoun, Gadsden, Bay, Washington & Holmes).

    April 16 - Sunland Volunteer Picnic.



    iBudget Algorithm Update

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    The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) held a public workshop on February 16 in Tallahassee to obtain feedback and suggestions for the iBudget Florida algorithm.  Advocates, stakeholders, parents, service providers, and others attended to improve the algorithm formula used to predict resource needs for customers enrolled on the iBudget waiver.

    The workshop presentation explained many factors:

    • Current iBudget allocation
    • 125 independent variables vs. the current 53 independent variables
    • R-Square values – r-square is a number that indicates how well the statistical model fits the data
    • Outliers – generally individuals with extremely high or extremely low algorithm amounts
    • Stakeholder feedback
    • Dependent variables
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    The algorithm will provide an equitable distribution of available resources based on an assessment process that includes client characteristics, assessment instrument, and customer choices of services once the person’s budget is determined.

    The PowerPoint presentation is available at:

    The next iBudget public meeting is March 2, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. at the APD State Office.



    ABLE Act

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    The Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville hosted a celebration to honor the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 or the ABLE Act of 2014 by Congress and the man who made it happen.  They recognized U.S. Representative Ander Crenshaw who championed the bill for nine years until it was finally approved in December.

    Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville Family Outreach Coordinator Karen Prewitt said, “The pleasure was certainly ours to host such a wonderful celebration, and an opportunity to honor a man who worked on this piece of legislation, as though he had a personal stake in the matter, for such a lengthy journey.  I can imagine his relief, gratitude, and pure joy, when this act was, indeed, signed into law last December.”

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    Congressman Crenshaw spoke at the event in downtown Jacksonville of the power of advocacy, the nine year journey, and profoundly thanked the community for their perseverance on this significant legislation.

    The ABLE Act allows individuals with disabilities and their families to save money for their future needs. The Act states, “The purposes of this title is to: (1) encourage and assist individuals and families in saving private funds for the purpose of supporting individuals with disabilities to maintain health, independence, and quality of life; and (2) provide secure funding for disability-related expenses of beneficiaries with disabilities that will supplement, but not supplant, benefits provided through private insurance, title XVI (Supplemental Security Income) and title XIX (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act, the beneficiary's employment, and other sources.

    Many Florida advocates came to the event.  APD Community Supports employee and self-advocate JR Harding attended on behalf of APD State Office.

    “Now, the effort moves to each state, and we know there is progress being made on ABLE in Florida.  We, the DSAJ, and myself, as a parent and advocate, look forward to the possibility of a state law by the end of 2015,” said Prewitt.



    Cashing in

    By Melanie Mowry Etters

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    Persistence pays off is an old adage that came true for Rachel Caylor.  Caylor works at the Pensacola Walmart on North Navy Boulevard and has been there seven years. She worked in a variety of locations in the store but wanted to be a cashier and also man the customer service desk. Caylor worked on the sales floor and as a backup cashier for six years before being offered a permanent cashier position. She also assists with the customer service desk as needed.

    Caylor has a developmental disability and is a customer of Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD).

    Caylor said, “Walmart works well with people with disabilities. They work around your schedule due to transportation issues. It is a good employer. They understand people with disabilities—what they can and cannot do. I like it here.”  

    Caylor’s Supervisor, Shalawn Kennedy, was impressed with Caylor’s persistence and willingness to volunteer to help as a cashier or at the customer service desk so they offered her the permanent position. Kennedy said, “Rachel has a great work ethic. She is an all-around girl because she is knowledgeable about a lot of areas. She is reliable and dependable. Rachel does what is asked of her, then more. She is also great with customers.”

    Besides being a dedicated employee, Caylor volunteers with local elementary schools, Special Olympics, her church, and several other organizations. She has participated in Special Olympics for 16 years winning medals in volleyball, bowling, basketball, and gymnastics. Caylor also serves as an athletic leader where she participates in speaking engagements sharing what Special Olympics is all about.

    Caylor is also working to become certified as a teacher’s aide. She has two more classes to complete the certification process. Caylor said, “I love kids. I like helping them succeed in life. I want to have the certification, then I can decide if I want to change careers.”



    CMS Transition Plan

    The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) notice letters regarding the draft statewide Transition Plan for the state of Florida to meet the new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Home and Community-Based Settings rule are now available on the APD website for review. The letters are in English, Spanish and Creole. When providing comments regarding the draft transition plan, please have ‘Statewide Transition Plan’ referenced in the subject line.

    The Transition Plan pertains to all Waivers:

    • Long-Term Care Managed Care;
    • Developmental Disabilities Individual Budgeting;
    • Familial Dysautonomia;
    • Project AIDS Care;
    • Traumatic Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injury;
    • Adult Cystic Fibrosis, Model; and
    • The Redirection program.

    The public comment period begins ends March 14, 2015. AHCA will consider all public comments received regarding the statewide transition plan.



    Nominations Sought for the Florida Youth Commission

    Applications are now open for youth interested in serving on the 2015-2016 Florida Youth Commission. 

    The Florida Youth Commission is comprised of youth across the state and serves as an advisory group to the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet. The objective of the Florida Youth Commission is to unite the youth in our state to identify key issues facing Florida’s next generation. The Florida Youth Commission aspires to not only connect Florida’s youth, but also to guide and cultivate our future leaders.

    There are two application forms, a Nominator and Student application form; only one will need to be submitted. Both applications forms can be found here, where they must also be submitted electronically when complete. The application deadline is May 1, and the selection notification will be no later than June 19, 2015.

    For more information regarding the Florida Youth Commission, please visit or email the commission at



    Around the State



    An Invitation to Demonstrate Success

    By Michael Cardello

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    On January 29, the Able Trust sponsored and presented an internship seminar for businesses at the Hyatt Regency Miami. The seminar was titled Developing an Internship Program.

    The objective was to educate local businesses regarding the advantages of providing paid and unpaid internships to job seekers with disabilities. The seminar included a presentation of the legal aspects of providing internships with an emphasis on criteria for unpaid internships according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act.

    Ambassador of the Able Trust Bob Bromberg and Manager of Internship and Mentoring Programs for the Able Trust Joseph D’Souza hosted this seminar.

    In attendance were: Seaboard Marine, several small businesses, and representatives from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), Vocational Rehabilitation, and Miami Lighthouse for the Blind.

    APD customer Daniel Joseph was invited to speak as a former intern at Doctors Hospital of Baptist Health South Florida and subsequent employee at South Miami Hospital of Baptist Health South Florida. Joseph was very appreciative of this opportunity and spoke very well of his internship and employment experiences.

    This seminar was a valuable opportunity for all who attended and the hope is that an increasing number of businesses and organizations will be receptive to providing internship and employment opportunities to job seekers with disabilities.



    Children's Home Society

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    The APD Northwest Region Office conducted an informational workshop for the employees of the Children’s Home Society (CHS). This event was coordinated by Susan Loftus, a CHS employee and a member of the Northwest Region Family Care Council (Area 2). This workshop provided information regarding APD, the application and referral process, eligibility criteria, waiting list services, crisis procedures, and waiver services.

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    Children’s Home Society is a feeder program to APD mainly from their Early Steps program, thus the information and open dialogue shared reinforced the beneficial connection of our agencies,  focusing on how to best serve individuals and families in need of our services.



    Senior Day

    By Octavius R. Jackson, M.Ed.

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    The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Northwest Region participated in Empowering Senior Day in Tallahassee, which was sponsored by the Faith Family Resource Center in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King. The event was coordinated to educate seniors and caregivers of services they can connect to within their community to provide support for themselves and their families. Speakers and presenters included APD, American Eldercare, Department of Elder Affairs, Big Bend Hospice, Tallahassee, Police Department, Department of Children & Family, Department of Health (Disability Determination) & Department of Fraud Prevention. Many of the participants said that the exhibits and speakers provided information about services that they previously did not know. APD provided information regarding eligibility criteria and waiting list categories that may apply to caregivers who are seniors.  




    Social Security Workshop

    By Octavius R. Jackson, M.Ed.

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    The Family Care Council Area 2 in the Northwest Region sponsored a Social Security Workshop at Gretchen Everhart School on February 5, conducted by Region Employment Liaison Katrina Washington. This event entailed networking among parents, customers, teachers, support coordinators, and supported employment providers. The workshop explained Social Security work incentives that are available to protect benefits while an individual is employed. This is essential because many customers fear working because they think they will lose their benefits. The Employment Enhancement Project was also discussed and how this funding is being used to support employment outcomes for customers currently on the waiting list.  Washington’s dynamic presentation resulted in education and enthusiasm for all who attended.



    Resume Writing

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    The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Northwest Region in partnership with Lowe’s and Career Source provided a Resume Writing 101 Workshop. This workshop was coordinated by Northwest Region Employment Liaison Katrina Washington and conducted by Lowe’s Human Resource Managers Tabari Holland and Erin Wade.

    The workshop encompassed how to improve resume appearance with valuable feedback from knowledgeable and experienced HR managers. The significance of cover and thank you letters was explained and appropriate interview appearance and behavior was discussed and examples provided. The audience was also allowed to ask questions to obtain answers and views of various situations from a HR standpoint. 

    Lowe's also indicated that they were hiring about 40 people for the spring season, so participants and supported employment providers were able to have direct contact and discuss positions with the two HR managers following the workshop. Lowe's HR officials said that they would be interested in other projects involving mock interviewing and job skills with APD customers to encourage job preparedness. 



    The Americans with Disabilities Act, Then and Now

    By Maria Angeles Linares

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    In commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Southern Region Employment Team prepared a presentation to the Miami-Dade County Public School, Transition Task Force, which met on February 10 at Florida Memorial University located in North Dade County. The focus of the presentation was on the impact that the ADA has had on people with disabilities in the community and education.

    Prior to the ADA, there was other legislation on the books that protected individuals with disabilities; however, the qualifiers were so narrow, that they excluded a large portion of the population with disabilities.  For example, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 only applies to entities that receive federal funding.  Public Law 94-142  was passed in 1975 and is referred to as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was focused on serving children with disabilities, but was very restrictive because the individual had to fit into one of the specific categories and must need special education, to the exclusion of people who did not need special education.

    Under Section 504 and ADA, there are a host of disabilities that are covered, but would not be covered under IDEA.  For example, Attention Deficit Disorder or ADHD would not be covered.  Also not covered under IDEA are learning disabilities without a manifestation of significant discrepancy between intellectual disability and achievement, as well as students with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, HIV/AIDs, and other health and behavior conditions.

    Many people are under the impression that making special accommodations for people with disabilities is expensive.  However, many of the accommodations made in the classroom are inexpensive, and common sense modifications that give the student equal access to learning and extracurricular activities.  Some accommodations include:

    • Special seating arrangement
    • Testing modifications
    • Homework modifications
    • The use of readers or taped materials
    • Assistive technology such as specialized keyboards, screen magnification systems, and specially designed software
    • Accommodations in attendance policies

    The ADA opened the door for many who were excluded by previous laws that had been put in place to protect them.  In 2008, the ADA Amendment Act or ADAAA, further clarified the definition of a major life activity to include major bodily functions such as functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory circulatory, endocrine and reproductive functions.  This has made a huge impact on people who had previously been excluded under ADA.  This means that individuals with a limitation to any of the “major life activities” no longer need to show how their disability limits them and the impairment of one major life activity need not limit others to be considered a disability.

    The ADA was a huge step forward toward improving the life of people with disabilities.  It continues to evolve and has become a model for other countries to emulate.



    USF Certificate Program

    If you are interested in earning a graduate certificate in Positive Behavior Support, be sure the check out the USF Graduate Certificate in Positive Behavior Support. More information can be found in this flyer.



    UWF Sponsors Two Game Changer Events

    By Annette Zeeb

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    The University of West Florida (UWF) hosted two APD customers on February 5 at the UWF Pensacola Campus as part of the game changer program. The game changer initiative gives VIP treatment to individuals with developmental disabilities at athletic events. APD customer Margaret Stokes was the VIP for the UWF Women’s Basketball game at 5 p.m. The UWF Argonauts defeated the Delta State Lady Statesmen 65-62 in overtime. APD customer Nicholas Delgado was the VIP for the UWF Men’s Basketball game at 7 p.m. The UWF Men’s Basketball defeated the Delta Statesmen 86-82 in double overtime. Both Stokes and Delgado along with their guests received court side seating; were announced as the special guest for the game; got their picture with Argie and the cheerleaders; visited with the team in the locker room; and were showered with gifts. Both games were exciting and they both enjoyed them tremendously. We are appreciative to UWF for offering this opportunity for individuals on the APD waiting list.



    Champion Staff
    Melanie Mowry Etters - Editor
    Lindsey Boyington - Writer
    Christine Call - Writer
    Kimberly Tharpe - Masthead Design
    John Milton - Webmaster


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