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?
Live and online events about voting, weather emergencies, and public health & safety should provide sign language interpreters for the hearing impaired. Planning, with input from the disabled community and experts in the field, must ensure that caregivers for the disabled are provided during evacuation periods.
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?
Virtual education may not be best for each student, especially those with disabilities that are unique to each student. Consequently, these decisions are best made at the local level where the personal contact and any nuances are best known, with spending support provided by the Legislature as advised by the local School Board and Superintendent.
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”)?
There are now twice as many police and guardians in our schools than psychologists, so better "attention" must be paid. When a student poses a danger to themselves or others, it's imperative to take appropriate action. For disabled students, that action should be guided and monitored by health professionals.
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?
Staying at home is the best option. Financial assistance should be given to family members providing care; they themselves may be prevented from working due to their family responsibilities. But also providing the means for the single disabled, with or without psychiatric issues, to stay at home or to live in a small protected community - besides financial assistance, that would include assistance with housekeeping, errands, ensuring regular medication schedules are kept and other services as required.
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?
Expanding Medicaid is our best option. Besides covering 800 thousand more Floridians, it uses the federal taxes already paid by Floridians, as well as reducing our state's costs for uncompensated care in behavioral health. I can not support block grants and per capita caps as they weaken benefits and eligibility requirements.
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 believe everyone can and should work and have the dignity of purpose and independence. I support that people with disabilities need assistance if they are to have equal employment opportunities. Advances have been made but more must be done. We need to protect those advances and strengthen those programs if we are to ensure that disabled persons have competitive employment in an inclusive workforce.
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?
The criminal justice system fails disabled people at every level. I support investing in community-based services, mental health courts, de-escalation training for police led by disabled people, accommodations within the court system, ADA co-ordinators at all facilities, and comprehensive health/mental care for all inmates. Re-entry preparation must include accessible education and training while still in prison; as well as support in accessing Medicaid and other benefits, such as halfway houses, when released.
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?
Given half a chance, you stop noticing differences. I've experienced fierce passion from advocates for the disabled and learned that the only way to even begin to understand the issues is through the eyes of the disabled.