Enhancing Autism Services in Florida: $2.2 Billion in New Funding

Congratulations, Florida! In a landmark move, Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced a substantial $2.2 billion funding package to enhance services for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. This significant investment underscores the state’s commitment to improving the quality of life for many Floridians by providing essential resources to expand and enhance support services. Florida’s recent surge in funding for autism and developmental disability services marks a significant shift in how the state supports its most vulnerable residents. It is a pivotal step toward ensuring a brighter future for all. Read the full announcement here.

Summary of Funding Allocation and Goals

This new state funding primarily aims to transition individuals from long-term support settings like institutions to more appropriate and supportive environments like personal homes or residential group homes. 

Key allocations include:

  • $200 million to bolster an across-the-board increase for iBudget waiver providers, ensuring they have the necessary resources to improve services.
  • $64.8 million to enroll additional individuals in crisis, providing them with timely access to essential services.
  • $55.7 million to expedite the enrollment of individuals currently in pre-enrollment categories, significantly reducing wait times.
  • $241 million directed towards community provider organizations to enhance service delivery through targeted projects and infrastructure improvements.
  • Over $40 million to support community projects for those with autism and other developmental disabilities
  • $1 million dedicated to the Els Center of Excellence to develop a sensory-friendly recreational complex catering to the unique needs of children with autism.

How This Funding Impacts Florida

Florida is now positioned to offer services that align with contemporary standards of care seen in other states. This change is not merely about increasing financial resources but fundamentally altering the landscape of disability services to emphasize personal choice, community integration, and individualized care.

Community Inclusion and Choice

The core of this funding initiative is community inclusion. By moving from institutional to community-based settings, Florida is aligning with a growing national trend towards deinstitutionalization. This approach not only respects the dignity and autonomy of individuals with disabilities but also proves to be more cost-effective in the long run.

As more people begin living in their communities, more housing options must be developed. This funding will support housing, which allows individuals to pick settings that best support their needs and goals.

Reducing Waitlists and Expanding Services to More in Need

A critical aspect of this new funding is reducing long-standing waitlists. By significantly decreasing the time individuals spend waiting for essential services, Florida is addressing a significant barrier to care. This initiative will likely improve overall outcomes for individuals with disabilities by offering timely and appropriate support.

How Are The Funds Distributed?

The $2.2 billion budget is strategically allocated to maximize impact, including funding directed to:

iBudget Waiver Program Enhancements:

  1. $200 million to support an across-the-board increase for iBudget waiver providers. This significant portion of the funding is aimed at helping improve the services provided to individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities by ensuring that providers have the necessary resources to meet increased demand. 
  2. $64.8 million to enroll additional individuals in crisis, addressing their urgent needs and providing them with timely access to critical services.. 
  3. $55.7 million to expedite the enrollment of individuals currently in pre-enrollment categories, significantly reducing wait times. This funding is designated to enroll individuals currently in pre-enrollment categories, ensuring more people receive the services they need without delay.

Community Provider Organizations:

$241 million will be directed towards community provider organizations to enhance service delivery through targeted projects and infrastructure improvements. By bolstering these organizations, the funding will help improve much needed infrastructure, increase capacity, and enhance the quality of care provided to individuals with autism.

The Els Center of Excellence:

$1 million is dedicated to developing a sensory-friendly recreational complex at the Els Center of Excellence. This center is designed to provide a safe and supportive environment tailored to the unique needs of autistic children, offering them opportunities for recreation and socialization in a setting that accommodates their sensory sensitivities. 

“This new facility is going to provide a specialized swim and water safety program, aqua therapy sessions, indoor sports and fitness activities, and a specialized autism friendly hurricane shelter facility. We want them to get active wanting to live healthier lives, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here.” – Governor Ron DeSantis

By distributing funds across these areas, the state aims to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for individuals with autism and developmental disabilities.  

For more information, visit the APD website, which provides a breakdown of eligibility prerequisites and instructions for applying for services.

Is Your Current EHR System Successfully Handling Individualized Care Plans and Compliance?

Unfortunately for many agencies, their EHR software isn’t designed for the specific challenges I/DD providers face, such as individualized care plans and compliance requirements. Foothold’s AWARDS software excels in both areas—we help your organization deliver personalized whole-person care while addressing compliance and operational issues head-on. Our person-centered EHR system includes several key features that enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of your operations. We understand:

  • Individualized Care Plans: AWARDS puts the individual at the center of everything we do. Our system ensures that care plans are tailored to each person’s unique needs, allowing DSPs to quickly provide the best possible support.
  • Medical Functionality and Risk Management: AWARDS includes robust medical functionality, such as alerts for vital signs and tools for tracking health metrics over time. This proactive approach helps detect issues early, preventing small problems from becoming critical.
  • Task Assignment and Communication Tools: AWARDS offers efficient task management with our Task Basket feature, allowing agencies to assign and track tasks seamlessly. Our communication tools facilitate better shift-to-shift information exchange, enhancing care continuity.
  • Billing and Compliance: AWARDS supports compliance with Medicaid and other funding requirements. Our billing tools are designed to streamline the process, reduce errors, and ensure timely reimbursements.
  • Reimbursement Tracking: AWARDS provides comprehensive tools for monitoring and tracking reimbursements, improving your agency’s cash flow and financial stability.

Why Choose Foothold?

Investing in a robust EHR system like AWARDS is not just about meeting compliance and billing requirements. It’s about ensuring that individuals with disabilities receive the personalized support they deserve, enhancing the quality of care, improving working conditions, and reducing employee burnout rates. If your current EHR system falls short in these areas, it might be time to consider a change. AWARDS by Foothold Technology is a person-centered EHR to support your agency’s growth and success in the ever-evolving landscape of disability services.

As Florida continues to invest in and innovate disability services, it is crucial for stakeholders to stay engaged and supportive. The progress made today lays the foundation for a more inclusive and supportive future for all individuals with disabilities. Let’s continue to champion these initiatives as we work towards every individual having an opportunity to live their most fulfilled life.