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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?

Keeping in touch with residents is my specialty. Ever since I was elected to Mount Dora's City Council I have put out notifications before and after each council meeting letting residents know what's taking place and providing other important information in between. If elected I will establish a relationship with a liaison from Disability Rights Florida in order to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are always considered and never overlooked.

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?

It would be hard to say with certainty yes or no, however I do believe it to be nearly impossible to properly educate students with disabilities remotely or virtually. I would fight to ensure that in school learning is made available to students with disabilities. Virtual education may work for some but certainly not the majority.

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”)?

Just as teachers are required to earn certifications to teach, the State needs to require certification for mental health training. Training should be required of teachers, administration, school resource officers and staff to recognize students with mental health concerns as well as handling crisis intervention when a crisis occurs. My mom has battled bipolar and manic depression for years so I have become all too familiar with this disease and how to treat her. It is as severe as any other disease you could name but for some reason people still don't take it seriously. It begins with education and that is something a good leader can implement as a State Legislator. It is never appropriate to conduct an involuntary exam of a student. A parent or guardian must be contacted.

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?

Even without a pandemic I would fight to prevent unnecessary institutionalizations. We have home health care for the elderly community, I'm not sure what makes a person with a disability or psychiatric disabilities any less worthy. I would work to provide such in home care for psychiatric patients that will feel safe, therefore react better to treatment in their home environment.

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?

I do support accepting the federal monies afforded to expand Medicaid. As a small business owner who has been uninsured for more than a decade I know the stress it can cause, that feeling of uncertainty. I would be in support of a block grant over per capita caps mainly because it provides a bit more discretion in how the funding is allocated.

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?

There are federal and state grant programs that provide internships and career training for high school students. I would take that one step further and focus on students with disabilities, especially from marginalized communities. This again goes back to education. Unless we place some focus on this need for more attention, this problem will be ongoing. I would, with the help of my liaison, work to compile a list of corporations, companies and small businesses that can offer job placement for those persons with disabilities. There needs to be more emphasis on hiring persons with disabilities, period.

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?

Preparation for reentry needs to begin long before a citizen returns home. Prisons and jails should be evaluating work performance of people that are incarcerated and making note of their skills. We should have a plan was in place with companies/businesses to provide jobs for persons making reentry into their communities and into the workforce based on performance evaluations completed while they were incarcerated. Testing of particular skill sets should take place before reentry that way each citizen being released has a path to success that begins the very moment they are released. This plan would focus on persons with disabilities who face additional barriers upon reentry.

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?

When the City of Mount Dora went through the planning process to redesign/renovate the playground at Gilbert Park, a resident stood up and spoke with disgust at the fact that there were absolutely no activities/amenities for disabled children. I have worked with that woman since that very day and it has taken over a year but I am thrilled to say that Mount Dora will soon have a swing installed that will be accessible by children with disabilities. We did a lot of research in other cities to determine what is most used and safest and most desirable for children with disabilities. I'm embarrassed that it took so long but I'm proud to have been a part of the process. It reminds me constantly how unfairly treated persons with disabilities are in all regards. I will certainly focus on equality for persons with disabilities in all regards.