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During an emergency such as a hurricane or a public health crisis, there is not only a need to focus planning and response efforts on disability-specific aspects of the emergency, but also to seek the input and expertise of people with disabilities in the process. If elected, how would your office work to ensure that state emergency planning (i.e., health testing, sheltering and safety of congregate living populations, et cetera) is inclusive of Florida’s disability communities? How will you work to ensure that communications and other information from the state is accessible to people with disabilities?

There needs to be someone from the disability community at the table--in the EOC, on task forces, work groups, etc. And of course, sign language interpreters for hearing impaired, brail and voice activated technology for reading back instructions for visual impaired citizens. Further, there is a higher burden to move aggressively, and early to protect those with disabilities living in congregate settings to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of those residents during a crisis. That was not done with the pandemic.

In the event that the global pandemic lasts through the current school year or possibly beyond, how would you work with state educational officials to ensure that relevant state and federal educational guarantees for students with disabilities are adhered to, and do you believe that it is possible to appropriately educate students with disabilities remotely or through virtual education?

yes. In fact, I did that all summer long through the Adult & Community Education summer institute in Leon County.

In recent years, the state legislature has devoted much attention to the issue of mental health service delivery and crisis response systems in state public schools. In your opinion, how should the state work to ensure that the mental health needs of its students are met, and what reforms are needed to provide adequate mental health and crisis response services in our schools? When, if ever, is it appropriate for schools to initiate involuntary examinations for its students under the Florida Mental Health Act (“the Baker Act”)?

Early intervention is critical to those in. mental health crisis. Training school personnel to spot the signs, monitoring social media and other communications of students to spot signs of crisis, and stepping in with help should happened. Baker acts should be reserved for students who are a danger to themselves or others only and that should be determined by a mental health professional. Not a school.

It has become apparent that COVID-19 spreads most easily in institutional and congregate living arrangements. If elected, how would you work to prevent the unnecessary institutionalization of persons with disabilities and reduce other forms of congregate living in favor of serving persons with disabilities in their own homes or the community both during and after the current pandemic? What will you do to ensure that people with psychiatric disabilities are afforded the services they need to succeed in their own homes and communities and avoid psychiatric hospitalization?

The only way to keep people in their own homes during a pandemic or not, is to ensure that adequate supports exist to provide for them in the home setting. Obviously, that requires adequate funding. The cost-saving achieved from living at home vs institutionalization needs to be reviewed. This generation people with cognitive/intellectual disabilities is the first generation to ROUTINELY outlive their parents. We are not doing enough to prepare them to live independently. That has to be done. Otherwise, you will see nursing homes full of people with DD/ID.

Even before the pandemic began and massive job losses ensued, 2.7 million Floridians were uninsured. Research shows that under normal circumstances the uninsured have much greater challenges accessing health care, and these disparities are exacerbated during a health crisis. Do you support expanding the state’s Medicaid program to cover adults (19-64) with income up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to provide more than 800,000 Floridians with coverage? Why or why not? Do you support proposals to utilize a “block grant” or “per capita cap” approach to contain Medicaid spending? Why or why not?

Yes. BC we are going to need every tool in the toolbox to weather the economic impacts of this crisis.

Despite the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) and related state and federal laws, the unemployment rate of people with disabilities continues to be much higher than that of people without disabilities. If elected, how would you work to promote meaningful opportunities for supported employment and competitive, integrated employment of people with disabilities in the state? What policies do you advocate to support the academic and career success of students with disabilities, especially for students from historically marginalized communities and backgrounds?

IEPs for students w disabilities must include a provision which requires the sharing of transition, APD, VR and supported employment information for parents, students and caregivers of those students. Every school district must have a transition program to teach 18-22 year olds job and independence skills and provide supported employment opportunities in the state. Funding is there through VR. I have spent 20 years working on educational policies related to students with disabilities including founding a scholarship program to provide funding for students w disabilities to pursue continuing education and training post high school (www.keysbigbend.org). Now I am trying to figure out how to tackle quality day programs. My county is one of 16 with funding for adults with DD. I worked closely with Sen. Gardiner to create programs at community and technical colleges for students with I/DD. Tallahassee Community College's Eagle Connections program which I worked to launch in 2010 was the basis for an OPPAGA study leading to creation of the Center for Unique Abilities and Lively Technical College is about to launch SOAR which will be a workforce certificate just for students with disabilities in 4 specific careers: Culinary, HVAC, Building Trades and Automotive which are where jobs are in my community at the moment.

Nationwide it is believed that there are more than 750,000 people with disabilities who are incarcerated, and many of these individuals face substantial barriers to reentry when they complete their sentences and return home. What reforms do you support to ensure that returning citizens with disabilities have the resources, skills and mental health supports to succeed when they complete their sentences?

OH MY GOD. We need to work with existing returning citizens efforts in our communities to provide supports, life skills training, and wrap around services.

What is your experience working with people with disabilities or alongside disability-led organizations? Please provide examples of your experience addressing and responding to disability issues or describing disability advocacy efforts you have participated in either personally, professionally, or while in elected office if applicable. If elected, how would you integrate the input and perspectives of people with disabilities in your office’s planning and legislative efforts?

www.keysbigbend.org which I founded Leon County ESE Council first and now second iteration www.independencelandingfl.com which I founded TCC Eagle Connections Advisory Board Adult & Community Education Advisory Board Big Bend Transition Council member Children's Home Society