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?
The first thing that my office will do is to fully research just the present situation in this area and then ascertain the improvements needed. Although I have spent nearly forty years as a teacher/professor during which I had multiple opportunities to work with studentsw with disabilities. No matter what their issue, I was always ready to do whatever the student needed me to do. This has given me a "real life" understanding of persons with disabilities. I will do the same for both my district and the state of Florida.
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?
My #1 priority will be education. I will work tirelessly to improve our state education as a way to offer the school districts in all the counties to have more freedom to chose curriculum each district wants rather than being forced to use a specific curriculum "approved" for use by either the federal government, state government, or union. As a representative of the people of Florida, I will work for more choices for parents unhappy with the public school systems brought on by control exercised by entities outside the school district. This includes all disabilities of all students within each district. They should have the freedom to chose what is right for them.
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”)?
I will find out just how much control the state education department is exercising control over the individual districts in this area. I believe in the sanctity of the local school district to decide and provide these needs. I have read the state constitution and have found no authority for the Florida Department of Education to force or control the individual county school districts. I will work to allow the individual districts to work for and provide the needs of their district. But, the Dept. of Ed. can encourage and even offer extra funding to give incentives to provide these services. I will work to make this happen. As to the Baker Act, this is a matter for individual districts in cooperation with the specific student's parents. I will not support the governmental (i.e., Dept. of Ed.) intervention in these matters.
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 state should always be ready to fund alternatives. Still, each individual, along with their families, is responsible for taking advantage of the aid provided by the state and federal government. I will work to assure that persons with disabilities have access to good facilities, but will fight for their right to chose what they want to utilize. In this respect I am more of a libertarian than either a Democrat or Republican.
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 am in favor of expanding Medicaid (NOT MEDICARE) to help with those who chose to utilize that option. I will not support any effort to offer socialized medicine either on the state or federal level. Health care has never been a right. It is always a choice of the individual. Health care is available to anyone who needs it in the USA. No hospital that receives any federal or state aid is allow to turn away people in need of emergency health care. And every citizen has the choice to educate themselves as to how to live a healthy life. That is what is referred to as "liberty."
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?
First, I do not accept what seems to be the assumption behind this question. It seems to assume that disabled persons are unable to help themselves or that persons from "historically marginalized communities and backgrounds" are completely incapable of achieving their personal goals. I believe in the power of the human spirit. I will work to encourage disabled persons from all walks of life to look beyond their disabilities (even people not "classified disabled" often have disabilities that are unseen or even unrealized) and see that they can achieve their dreams, if they are willing to work for them. Government was never intended to the population's nanny. But we can educate and offer incentives for people to achieve their own dreams.
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?
Again, the question is based on an assumption that is not actually established. Plus, the phrase "substantial barriers to reentry" is too vague to address directly. I will be more than willing to do an in-depth study of the reentry system of Florida to accurately determine what needs are there. Then the justice department will be charged with solving the individual problems faced by people with disabilities who are allowed to reenter society.
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?
I have been a classroom teacher and professor in college for nearly forty years. I have worked with persons with just about every disability there is. And I believe I understand their needs. I also am a person with a serious disability that has hampered my work for decades. But, I learned to work through, with, and despite my disabilities to achieve many great things in my life. I stand ready to help all persons with disabilities--if they want my help. I also honor the individual rights of the disabled to refuse help. That is their perogative as citizens of a nation that honors the freedom and liberty of each individual to make their own choices. I will do all in my power to help the disabled. And I pledge and promise that.