Governor Rick Scott Signs Intellectual Disabilities Bill Into Law and Helps End the R-word in Florida
Senate Bill 142 Passed Unanimously in Florida Legislature
June 14, 2013
Tallahassee, FL (June 14, 2013) – Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 142, the Intellectual Disabilities Bill, into law today in Tallahassee. The bill, which was passed unanimously by the Florida Legislature in April, removes the phrase “mental retardation” from state statutes and replaces it with “intellectual disabilities.”
“I hate that word,” said Elizabeth O’Brien, a self-advocate from Spring Hill, who has greatly suffered from people calling her “retard.” A group of kids once threw rocks at her and she has never forgotten it. O’Brien was relieved to learn that Senate Bill 142 will officially become law on July 1. “I’m glad he signed it. That makes me very happy.”
The Arc of Florida, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, spent three years working to pass the Intellectual Disabilities Bill. Senate Bill 142 was sponsored by Sen. Thad Altman (R-Melbourne.) The House version of the bill, House Bill 1119, was sponsored by Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach.)
“Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature are to be commended for taking a stand against the R-word,” said Michele Poole, president of The Arc of Florida. “This is a significant step forward in the fight to end bullying against people with intellectual disabilities.”
“Mental retardation” was once considered a valid medical term, but over the years, it was twisted into a hurtful slang word that promotes negative stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities. The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and American Psychiatric Association changed their official diagnoses from "mental retardation" to "intellectual disability."
Federal health, education and labor policy statutes were changed in 2010 when Congress unanimously passed and President Obama signed "Rosa's Law." The Social Security Administration recently announced its intent to make the change to its official "Listing of Impairments."
For more information on the End the R-word in Florida campaign, visit www.norword.org.
Arc Gateway Selects Permanent Executive Director
May 30, 2013
Pensacola, Fla. - Arc Gateway's board of directors has unanimously selected Charles Brewer as permanent executive director for the agency. After three months of nationwide recruiting and a series of interviews with several highly qualified candidates, the search committee brought their recommendation to the board meeting on Tuesday, May 28. Brewer had been serving as interim executive director since the first of the year, following the passing of Donna Fassett, the agency's late executive director. He had previously served as treasurer for the Arc Gateway Board of Directors for two of his three years on the board and as a trustee on the Arc Gateway Foundation.
"We are excited about the future of Arc Gateway and we look forward to continuing to work with Charles as executive director," said Pat Young, Arc Gateway President. "We are thrilled to have his leadership on a permanent capacity."
Brewer served as president and CEO of Health First Network, Inc. for 13 years, retiring on December 31, 2012 for one day before stepping in as interim executive director for Arc Gateway. Additionally, he has worked with Sacred Heart Health Systems for two years and prior to that spent 27 years in health insurance, managed care and health care financing in Louisiana. He holds a BS in accounting and an MBA.
Arc Gateway provides programs and service to adults and children with intellectual/developmental disabilities since 1954. For more information, visit www.arcgateway.org.
President of The Arc of Florida Honored for Leadership
May 24, 2013
Michele Poole, president of The Arc of Florida, was recently honored at the Women in Leadership Awards luncheon hosted by the Executive Women of the Palm Beaches. Poole was named the 2012 Advocate of the Year by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Poole was one of the driving forces behind The Arc of Florida’s End the R-word in Florida campaign. The campaign led to the unanimous passage of the Intellectual Disabilities Bill, which will remove the phrase “mental retardation” and replace it with “intellectual disabilities” in state statutes. The Palm Beach Post profiled her story:
2013 Florida Legislative Session Better Than Others For Floridians with Developmental Disabilities
The Arc of Florida Stresses More Work Must Be Done
May 3, 2013
Tallahassee, FL (May 3, 2013) – The 2013 Florida Legislative Session was the best one in five years for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and the agencies that serve them. The Arc of Florida successfully worked to expand and protect services across the state.
“It’s important for us to recognize that Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature are listening to the people we serve,” said Michele Poole, president of The Arc of Florida. “Many good things happened during this session for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
- The Legislature approved an increase in funding for Florida’s Medicaid Waiver program, which means 750 – 800 people will come off of the waiting list that some individuals have been on for more than ten years.
- The Legislature approved an increase in funding for Adult Day Training providers, a service that has not had a rate increase in ten years.
- The Arc of Florida successfully convinced lawmakers to remove language that was quietly slipped into the back of a bill approving the development of a managed care system. Managed care could have overturned an entire service system that many individuals rely on to be productive members of society.
- The Legislature approved carrying forward funding that was awarded to The Arc of Florida in a special appropriation last year to provide much needed dental care to individuals with I/DD. Many people with I/DD have significant dental problems because they cannot afford to go to the dentist. The Arc of Florida was able to provide pain relief to hundreds of individuals this year because of the appropriation.
- The Legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 142, the Intellectual Disabilities Bill. It will remove the phrase “mental retardation” in state statutes and replace it with “intellectual disabilities.” Sen. Thad Altman (R-Melbourne) and Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach) sponsored the legislation. The measure is headed to Governor Scott for his signature.
While The Arc of Florida is encouraged by progress made during this year’s session, Poole cautions that this is only a step in the right direction.
“Florida consistently ranks among the lowest funding levels for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, so we still have a lot of work to do,” said Poole. “The managed care proposal that was sneaked into legislation toward the end of session would have been devastating for our families. It will likely come up again. The Arc of Florida will remain vigilant as we continue to protect our clients and families moving forward.”
Other developments during the 2013 Legislative Session that will benefit individuals with I/DD include $3 million in funding for the Early Steps program, $77 million for the construction of charter schools and $10 million for residential projects for people with developmental disabilities through the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. The budget still needs to be approved by Governor Scott.