« Back to the list of Candidates

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?

What we need here is a panel of unbiased, non-partisan professionals and employees working in healthcare, mental health, housing, and public works statewide who can come together, and educate state and local officials on what areas are most critical at that time so that we can make a unified and effective approach on emergency planning that is accommodating to all people in our state.

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?

A streamlined plan will not work with remote learning, especially with students with disabilities. State and Local officials need guidelines from the academic, mental health, and rehabilitative experts who can give them concrete guidance on giving students with learning disabilities the same academic opportunities and a level playing field as their peers.

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”)?

The Baker Act has its use, but it is should only be exercised when appropriate. It is important that there is accessible mental health resources at the community and state schools that work on addressing mental health before one would resort to "Baker Acting" its students. This too, requires government employees to be educated of the mental health needs of students, to know what signs to look for, to learn valuable tactics such as de-escalation, and the like.

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?

This involves the government being educated and given guidance by a panel of experts in the field, such as mental health experts, social workers, and the like. They can work together with the administrators of these institutions to make the appropriate sanitary and health measures for when institutionalization is appropriate. But there should be accessible community resources such as counseling and monitoring to ensure that one can address matters before they escalate to the level of requiring psychiatric hospitalization. For example, being educated on "red flags" of a potential crisis, or learning how to properly de-escalate a situation. Training is essential!

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?

That is a reasonable medicaid expansion measure, so I support it. Generally speaking, I do support expanding medicaid to individuals who can demonstrate the economic need. I can support proposals to utilize a “block grant” or “per capita cap” approach to contain Medicaid spending, provided that the numbers and percentages are reasonable. There should be transparency in government spending, so to accommodate the proper allocation of funds and spending.

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?

We need occupational skills programs in the community that provide job opportunities for people with disabilities. I would push for developing such programs. I personally have seen success with such programs in other states. We need to support our community and state public schools to ensure they have the same opportunities and resources, so I am a firm supporter of educational reform. We need to be aware that our demographics in Florida varies from community, but culturally and economically, we are an extremely diverse state. We need to ensure that there are sufficient resources provided to a particular community when they need it. This also involves transparency of allocation of resources, to know where the need is most prevalent.

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?

With my experience in criminal justice and law, I support the rehabilitation of non-violent offenders versus incarceration. Incarceration should be reserved for the individuals who pose a high risk to harming society, where rehabilitative methods have failed. Community and state resources should be available to eligible, rehabilitated individuals who are able to successfully re-enter society. I also support creating occupational skills and job opportunities for eligible, rehabilitated non-violent offenders to assist them in their re-entry.

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 a private sector corrections administrator and as a juvenile probation officer, I had firsthand experience with the rehabilitative methods for individuals who struggled with mental illness. I was trained on 'red flag' signs to look for and 'de-escalation' techniques, while, at the same time, knowing how to work with individuals with varying levels of mental and/or physical disabilities. This gives me the insight to be able to reach out to the organizations, agencies, professionals, etc., who can readily educate or otherwise assist and participate in my office's planning and legislative efforts.