Jim DeBeaugrine

It seems that the Florida Legislature has decided.  Again it has determined to exact the wrath of the budget cuts from the back of the most vulnerable population in our state–persons with disabilities.  Another five percent has been cut from the rehabilitation budget of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

While other agencies have taken a sizable hit, their required cuts are four percent.  The APD budget has been slashed by 12 percent. 

It appears that everything that can be cut has been cut from those who require the least amount of expense:  people living at home with their parents.  Yet, it isn’t clear whether  they will suffer even more with new requirements forced on rehabilitation programs. 

There is a question about whether rehab programs such as The Arc (formerly the Agency for Retarded Citizens) will be able stay afloat.  In Florida and nationwide, this premiere rehab program has taken some sizable hits by local programs which have chosen to come from under the arm of their parent organization.  Now, with these severe cuts in their funding, there is concern among parents and providers that this year could break the backs of the organization.

This excerpt from the January Newsletter is the the above-the-fold article from Jim DeBeaugrine, Director of APD.  It is positive and upbeat and informative. 

A New Year, A New Day for APD

By Jim DeBeaugrine, Director

As we all welcome 2009, I would like to encourage everyone to work toward positive outcomes in the New Year. The Legislature is back in Tallahassee in a special session this month to deal with the projected $2 billion deficit in the state budget for this fiscal year. Next year also looks bleak financially. It is more important than ever that we avoid divisiveness and put forth a unified front within our disability community.

Try to put yourself in a lawmaker’s shoes for a moment. With a special session nearing, you are hearing from a wide variety of your constituents. All have worthy, compelling, even heartbreaking stories.

How would you go about the difficult and painful process of establishing priorities among them? Would you tend to favor causes in which advocates present a unified message demonstrating a clear public benefit? What about programs where stakeholders point fingers and are unable to articulate a clear vision for the future? Where would you choose to invest?

We need to convince policymakers that supporting our mission is a good investment. Fortunately, the facts are on our side. As I reported in last month’s column, data shows that we have done better than most states in steering the public’s investment toward more cost-effective services that produce superior outcomes. This makes for a powerful message if supplemented by real-life examples of the success stories that have resulted.

We cannot, however, ignore the need for change. This is where we must develop and articulate a realistic vision for the future. How we approach this challenge will make all the difference. We will either demonstrate the ability to come together and develop thoughtful solutions or allow others to shape our future for us.

Fortunately, I think we are stepping up and taking charge. I would like to commend the stakeholders from all segments of our community who have engaged in recent planning efforts facilitated by the Developmental Disabilities Council. The group is primarily focused on individual budgets right now, but I welcome any and all ideas.

Despite the challenges, our community is demonstrating a renewed commitment to unity. As we enter the New Year, my appeal to you is that we continue to come together and increase collaboration with one another. With continued positive interactions, we will move forward together in 2009.

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