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?
I'm ashamed to say that this hasn't been something I've considered, and so I am unsure what steps I would take. However, I understand the importance of ensuring information should be accessible to all citizen, including those with disabilities, and so I would follow the recommendations provided to me from organizations such as Access to Vote and other disability resource and advocacy groups.
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?
First, I should say that I do believe that some students with disabilities can effectively be educated remotely, but many others likely cannot. Secondly, I aim to increase education funding through a tax on corporation within the state, and use that funding to acquire, among other things, more (and better compensated) Special Education teachers. Unfortunately, I'm skeptical that the educational challenges we are seeing now can really be addressed through anything other than a larger overhaul of our educational system. Beyond that, I plan to have close ties to stakeholders in both the Brevard and Indian River school districts and listen and provide what I can.
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 believe the attention on mental health from our state legislature is good, but the first real step to addressing student mental health is funding schools enough to reduce class sizes and provide more guidance counselors truly trained in counseling and student advocacy. As it pertains to when, if ever, schools should initiate a Baker Act, I believe schools should have this ability in order to provide suicide prevention and save lives. This is appropriate when a combination of the teacher, school administrator, schools resources, school counselor, or the school psychologist has sufficient reason to believe that a student is at risk of harming themselves.
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?
I am unsure how I would address these issues, but if elected I would meet and be provided with potential solutions from experts, advocates, and those with disabilities who are living this experience.
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 Medicaid expansion because I believe healthcare should be a human right, and not a privilege of wealth, though I am still putting together my platform on this issue and am not ready to weigh in on block grants at this time.
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?
I think the greatest contribution I could make would be to amplify the voices of those in my community who are working to create meaningful employment opportunities, such as Promise of Brevard. I would, of course, be incredibly open to learn more about legislative ideas from advocates for those with disabilities.
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?
I have never put any thought into this, and would be incredibly excited to be educated more on this issue. I do believe in decriminalizing and/or eliminating prison sentences for low-end drug offenses, as well as eliminating many barriers that those previously incarcerated face, but I have not considered anything specific for those with disabilities.
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?
As an former educator, I spent time in the classroom with students who had disabilities, educating them in an integrated classroom setting and providing accommodations as needed. I've also had the opportunity to serve alongside those with disabilities in church settings and other volunteer efforts. The legislative goals my office will be primarily concerned with are education reform, environmental protections, income inequality and addressing systemic racism. I believe that addressing these issues will benefit all Floridians, though I'd of course be open to listening and learning about what other ways I could advocate for those with disabilities.