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DCF Announces $48 Million Funding Cut for Disability Services

Sherryl Mantell, whose son lives in a Goodwill-Suncoast group home and participates in Goodwill's Adult Day Training Program, pleads for action to stop proposed rate cuts for services to people with developmental disabilities. Mantell's call for action came during an Oct. 30 press conference at a Palm Harbor group home.
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On October 24, 2003, the Department of Children and Families announced it will cut $48 million in funding from care giver services to more than 10,000 of the most vulnerable citizens in Florida those with developmental disabilities. This came shortly after the Legislature left town following passage of a $500 million economic development package to lure to Florida Scripps, a not-for-profit, out-of-state biomedical research institute. The cut is effective Nov. 1, just seven
days after the shocking announcement. Based on only two months of reporting, the Department projects it will run a $27 million deficit in two service categories Residential Habilitation and Adult Day Training.

Residential care and daily living activities are two of the most important services clients receive to maintain their health and safety. Scores of community agencies across the state will face dropping clients from care, closing homes and programs, reducing service quality and quantity, layoffs, and employee salary and benefit reductions. The affected organizations include many small not-for-profit organizations that collectively employ well over 25,000 people in Florida, many of whom are single mothers.

Supporters of individuals with disabilities served by community agencies assert that the Department’s projections are based on unreliable data and unverifiable analysis. The Department’s decision to cut funding now is too premature and will result in unnecessary disruption of services. The same reports the Department uses to justify the cuts and base its claim that funding will still be ahead even after the cuts, do not substantiate the findings or action. According to community agencies, the reports actually show a surplus of funding available for residential and daily living services, not a deficit. They are aghast that the Department has caused a panic by taking action to cut funding based on possibly erroneous information and faulty reasoning.

Advocates for these community services are appealing to the Legislature and the governor to intervene and stop the cuts. This Legislature and Gov. Bush have an unprecedented record of supporting individuals with developmental disabilities. At this late date it will take the top leaders in the Legislature and the governor to recognize that the price to pay for good intentions is too high for those who can least afford to pay it.

Terry R. Farmer, President & CEO of the Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (Florida ARF), a statewide advocacy group for individuals with disabilities served by community agencies, responded to the news with wrenching dismay. “This shocking announcement comes with only seven days advance warning and apparently without any clear evidence to back up such drastic measures.” Farmer also said, “The Department just implemented on July 1 a massive service system change for this population with a funding plan developed by Mercer, a leading international accounting firm. How could such unintended negative consequences be happening so soon after it just began?

The Developmental Disabilities Program serves approximately 25,000 individuals with developmental disabilities through a Medicaid waiver program. A developmental disability is defined in Florida Statutes 393.063(12) as “a disorder or syndrome that is attributable to retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida or Prader-Willi and that constitutes a substantial handicap that can reasonably be considered to continue indefinitely.”


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