Within the disability community in Florida, there are problems if you live in your own apartment.  The State has decided that there should be a maximum of 10 percent of individuals who are intellectually disabled within the population of a residential complex.  If mentally challenged people exceed the 10 percent rule, then the State will not pay for in home supports, such as independent living coaches. 

Betsy Farmer has served as an ardent advocate for persons with disabilities since the birth of her son, Luke.   She has written a letter to Governor Crist, the governor of Florida.  Her letter explains why she believes this rule should be changed.  She has given me permission to share her letter with you. 

Dear Governor Crist:

You may remember me and my son, Luke.  He is 22 and has Down Syndrome.  He had his picture taken with you last April outside your office. 

I am writing you to share my concerns about the 10 percent density rule that is still included in the Administrative Code of Coverage and Limitations for Medicaid DD Waiver Services.  I know you have received a number of other e-mails that have the details about this rule so I’m going to focus on why I strongly support the option of supported communities for our loved ones with disabilities that are full of many opportunities for friendship and activities with people of “their choice.”

My son Luke is an amazing young man who has been mainstreamed his entire time in public school.  He received his black belt in Tae Kwon Do at 15.  He got his first job and driver’s permit at 17.  He has been working for over five years.

Luke very much wants to live on his own.  But right now his only options would be to live in a group home with a small number of roommates that he does not know or he could live in an apartment/condo in the community where he would not be safe.  Also, because of the 10 percent density rule he would have very few friends of his cognitive level to interact with. 

I have a number of friends who have chosen that option for their loved ones with disabilities and the isolation has caused them to become very depressed.  It is essential that our loved ones have the option to live with their friends and have a fulfilling social life. 

Just like the retirees choose to live together because they have like interests, our sons and daughters with disabilities have a right to that same life style.

I have a dream of one day building a condo here in Brevard that would be similar to an assisted living facility (100 units, 240 tenants with and without disabilities).  This type of setting would keep our loved ones safe yet give them an opportunity to have a fulfilling independent life and the opportunity to make choices of whom they will interact with.

This would also provide “natural supports” so that the state would not have to “pay people” to be friends with our sons and daughters.  Safety is a major concern.   This type of setting would address that and allow for the much desired independence.  I’ll keep you in the loop as that dream becomes a reality.

The problem is that under the current state regulations the “condo” is not an acceptable option.  That needs to change!

If people are allowed to live in supported communities, it will make it possible to cut the services of some Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) clients because of the “natural supports” and the sharing of support staff. 

That will make it possible to give services to more people who are on the waiting list.  It is time that this section of the code be removed and the manner in which services are delivered be re-evaluated.  I would be happy to serve on a committee to address this issue.

Thank you for your leadership,

Betsy Farmer aka “Luke’s Mom”
Executive Director
Brevard Business Leadership Network
P.O. Box 100024
Palm Bay, FL 32910-0024
Tapping into Brevard’s Emerging Workforce
Cell – 321-536-7062
Fax – 321-733-8931
Does Mrs. Farmer have an answer to this proplexing problem?  What do you think would be the solution to the present practice of putting mentally challenged persons into bad sections of town with little or no protection?