The Champion Newsletter
In This Issue:

  • Message from the Director
  • Seal of Approval
  • APD Reviewing iBudget Decision
  • Jacob Wows with his IT Abilities
  • People First! Advocate Award
  • Looking for Exceptional Employers

    By Barbara Palmer
    APD Director Barbara Palmer

    The Agency for Persons with Disabilities and its partners will honor the state’s Exceptional Employers on October 1 in Tallahassee. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Visit to submit an Exceptional Employer nomination.

    The awards event will be held at the Tallahassee City Commission Chambers, 300 South Adams Street. Information displays will be in the Second Floor Mezzanine beginning at 8:30. The employer recognition will begin at 9:30 a.m. We hope to see you there!



    Seal of Approval

    By Lindsey Boyington

    Opens in New Window

    Governor Rick Scott’s 2014-15 budget included $20 million to offer waiver enrollment to individuals with critical needs who are on the waiting list for services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). After several days of preparation and planning, several APD State Office staff members diligently folded, stuffed, and sealed 1,205 letters to waiting list customers. All letters were ready to send out on July 16. Staff members enjoyed envisioning the reactions of the recipients, imaging smiles and celebrations for the opportunity to start receiving APD waiver services. This enrollment offer represents the elimination of the critical needs categories of the APD waiver waiting list as of July 1.

    Opens in New Window



    APD Reviewing iBudget Decision

    The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) is reviewing the decision last week by the First District Court of Appeal (DCA) which found that the rules used in implementing the iBudget Florida waiver are invalid, thus overturning an earlier decision by the Division of Administrative Hearings.

    APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “Our goal is always to protect the health and safety of the individuals we serve. We are evaluating the effects, if any, on APD customers and the financial impact of this decision. We hope to minimize any changes this ruling will require for people served by APD.”

    The DCA decision states that all APD customers should receive their iBudget algorithm amount as their cost plan amount. Therefore, APD will need to go through the rulemaking process again to comply with the court’s decision.

    About 30,000 APD customers use the iBudget Florida Medicaid waiver to direct and receive Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS). The HCBS waiver is funded by state and federal tax dollars to help people with developmental disabilities live and participate in their local communities.

    iBudget Florida is a new way to deliver Medicaid waiver services. It has been approved by both the Florida Legislature and the federal government. The iBudget waiver provides greater flexibility to choose services that best meet the customers’ needs given their unique situations.

    iBudget Florida is designed to make the funding process fair and equitable for all Medicaid waiver customers. It has increased opportunities for customers to direct their own care.

    Some other customer benefits of iBudget Florida are:

    • Ability to reallocate funds not spent on services in one month for future service needs within a fiscal year
    • Access to dental services that were not available in the former tier waiver
    • Support coordinators able to use iBudget technology to reduce paperwork requirements and communicate efficiently with providers and APD, and
    • Greater opportunity for APD to use new funds to serve people on the Medicaid waiver waiting list.



    Jacob Wows with his IT Abilities

    By Christine Call

    Opens in New Window

    Jacob Whittington attends Leon High School in Tallahassee and participates in the High School High Tech Program for students with disabilities sponsored by Ability 1st. He joined the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) as an information technology intern for two weeks in June. He excelled at his work testing audio and visual equipment, assisting with desktop support, and working on many Excel spreadsheets inputting data from different sources.

    Whittington said, “I was surprised I was creating spreadsheets, testing equipment, and attending meetings. I thought I would be doing filing and copying.” 

    His supervisor, Desktop Support Manager John Harris, said, “Jacob offered ideas to improve spreadsheets and enhanced ways of doing his tasks. He’s a real go getter and eager to work.”  Harris added he would recommend Whittington for a job as he understands completing assigned tasks, making a commitment, and not over scheduling.

    Opens in New Window

    The IT team ensured Whittington had a complete professional office experience.  He was included in meetings and held to the same expectations and standards as his coworkers. 

    Chief Information Officer Mark Ervin said, “Jacob is super smart with a razor focus on his tasks. He worked within the rules and finished his work quicker than anticipated. He has a great tech mind.”

    Whittington said, “I liked coming to the office. Everyone was very nice.  I may try out technology as a profession because I like technology that has moving parts, like robots, cars and airplanes. I’m also interested in bioengineering.”

    When he’s not working and attending camps, Whittington enjoys the outdoors, fishing, and watching classics on television, such as Gilligan’s Island.   



    People First! Advocate Award

    Opens in New Window

    The Ridge Area Arc's People First! Advocate Award honors an individual, group or organization which consistently demonstrate a leadership role in the advocacy of people with developmental disabilities. Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Employment Liaison Jenny Sykes was presented with the Advocate Award on May 16 in Avon Park. Ridge Area Arc CEO Rhonda Beckman said "She is an exemplary advocate for APD customers throughout Hardee, Highlands, and Polk counties."

    Opens in New Window

    "Sykes coordinates multiple activities of agencies, service organizations, businesses, and providers to champion, educate, and promote hiring practices that target individuals with developmental disabilities. She works very closely with Ridge Area Arc’s supported employment staff to identify barriers and various misconceptions that employers may have about hiring individuals with disabilities."

    "Sykes also works to facilitate open lines of communication with family members and other natural supports of APD customers so they understand the Social Security Work Incentives and benefits are still retained. It goes without saying that her tenacity has paid off. She has provided the foundation to cultivate new business partnerships, develop community awareness, and helped employers understand the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities."



    Family Care Council Wins Award

    On July 23, The Family Care Council Suncoast Region was honored with the Tom Ulvenes Outstanding Community Service Award at the Annual ADA Disability EXPO Advocacy Awards Ceremony and Community Forum. The event was hosted by the Alliance for Citizens with Disabilities Hillsborough County.

    The award is given for outstanding accomplishments and contributions to the Hillsborough County community through courageous advocacy, education, and diligent persistence in pursuing goals which improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

    “This was a great honor for all Family Care Council Members, this award will reside in the Regional APD Office in Tampa for all of us. It means a lot for the entire Suncoast Region Family Care Council to be recognized,” said Family Care Council Florida Chair Pauline Lipps.

    Family Care Council members Nancy Simmons, Patricia Oglesby, Ann Graybeal, Joanna Rydzewski, Kathy Colombrito, and Peter Ciccarello also attended the event.



    Duvall Home Visit

    Opens in New Window

    APD Director Barbara Palmer, Deputy Director of Programs Denise Arnold, Chief of Quality Management Ed DeBardeleben, and Northeast Regional Operations Manager Leslie Richards visited Duvall Home in Daytona Beach on June 26 to assess their plans as they transition into compliance to the new CMS rules regarding residential settings. Duvall Home CEO Steven DeVane and his management team are effectively leading the way to enable its residents to live in integrated community settings.



    Around the State



    Northwest Florida Celebrates!
    The 24th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

    By Annette Zeeb

    Opens in New Window

    The Center For Independent Living in Northwest Florida (CIL) held a community Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 24th anniversary celebration and awards luncheon on July 24 at East Brent Baptist Church in Pensacola. Senator Greg Evers served as Master of Ceremonies. Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson, IV, was the keynote speaker. He stated that it is the gift of opportunity that makes the ADA a great document. The ADA was established to promote equal opportunities for persons living with disabilities into all aspects of daily life, such as employment, public accommodations, transportation, state and local governments, and telecommunications. Escambia Supervisor of Elections David Stafford presented the Joe Oldmixon Service Award to Rich Gilmartin, who has devoted 37 years to promoting the employment of people with disabilities. Under his leadership, Gulf Coast Enterprises (GCE) has become Northwest Florida’s largest employer of people with disabilities by employing more than 1,200 individuals. Working with SourceAmerica and National Industries for the Blind, Rich helped identify the country’s best practices for creating a “quality work environment” in which people with disabilities have the opportunities, support and flexibilities to the work of their choice so they can experience greater inclusion in the workplace and increase their pay through greater productivity and career development. Lisa Newsom presented the Spirit of CIL Award to Rebecca Adkins, who has promoted disability support and access for the past 30 years. She is currently the Director of the Student Resource Center for ADA services at Pensacola State College. Jennifer Perry-Breen received the Volunteer of the Year award and received a standing ovation from the audience. Despite challenges and new expectations, Perry-Breen willingly gave her time and found her purpose in the process. In the picture, Jennifer is holding a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition signed by U.S. Congressman Jeff Miller.



    Dadvocates Wanted

    The Family Network on Disabilities (FND) partnered with Project Empower of Northwest Florida and Pure Friendship Ministries to host a Dadvocate “Train the Trainer “workshop on July 25 at Marcus Pointe Baptist Church in Pensacola for fathers, families and professionals who are involved in the lives of children with special needs.  Several Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) providers and APD connected family members participated in the training that was designed to teach how to better reach out to fathers of children with disabilities.  Fathers re-experience the grieving process over and over again, they keep looking for ways to fix the situation, and they do not join support groups due to the stigma of showing weakness were topics covered in the training.

    The workshop outlined the importance for fathers to be more involved in their children’s life.

    A Dadvocate is a father of a child with special needs who seeks to better advocate for their child in the home, schools, and communities. The Dadvocate program is sponsored by FND through a grant by the US Department of Education.  Dadvocates is a network of dads that promotes the involvement of fathers in the lives of their children with disabilities.  The Dadvocate program is intended to help start Dad-led networks and groups in Florida.  Father-to-Father advice is the best way for dads to find answers to better support their child in the home, school, and community.

    FND is currently forming a network of fathers or Dadvocates in the NW Florida area. Dads don’t have to do this alone. There is power in numbers and fathers often struggle wanting to help their children with special needs, but not sure where or who to turn to. Jim Howard, a FND Parent Resource specialist, states,  “What’s great about a network of dads is that we understand what other men are going through wanting to help, wanting answers, but not sure where to turn or who to ask.”

    The Dadvocates program seeking individuals to form a local network of fathers with children of special needs in the NW Florida area.  Anyone interested in being part of this network should contact Jim Howard at 850-982-1293 or email They will meet regularly to work on projects such as:

    • Father-to-Father Networking
    • Community Outings
    • Information and Resources
    • Role Models
    • Help with Personal Coping
    • Sense of Unity

    The FND has a huge amount of educational resources to assist parents, teachers, and families with disabilities. The web site is



    His Day in Court

    By Michael Cardello

    Opens in New Window

    Freddie Mims is a current Employment Enhancement Project participant who has been working successfully in a paid internship at Miami-Dade County Eleventh Circuit Court Criminal Division. He started his internship on May 13 and is continuing it into APD’s new fiscal year. Mims works with his job coach, Melanie Sterner, from Miami Dade County Public Schools.

    Mims graduated from American Senior High School in 2013. In the recent past, Mims has participated in Project Victory, which is a program designed to provide work related experiences for students with disabilities, ages 16 to 22, by developing social, emotional, and employability skills essential for employment and success in the workplace. The students spend one half of the day at the worksite and the other half of the day at school in the classroom.

    Within Project Victory, Mims worked at Publix in bagging, stocking, and at the bakery. He worked at the Miami VA Hospital in transporting patients to different departments.

    Mims’ responsibilities at the court entail: filing cases, shredding, making copies, and faxing. In working with Judge Cohen, case managers, and bailiffs, Mims has gained their trust and is asked to transport important papers and files as needed by court staff.

    Mims states that he would like to work at the court and that his experience there has helped him learn to stay out of trouble. He consistently demonstrates flexibility in his work and a positive attitude.  His job coach describes him as a pleasure to be around and is always very polite. It is reported that court staff feel the same way.

    Mims, his job coach, and the APD Southern Region Employment Team are doing everything in their power to ensure that this internship leads directly into competitive employment. He is very deserving of this and all future opportunities that come his way.



    Governor Appoints Three to Florida Endowment Foundation for Vocational Rehabilitation (Able Trust)

    Governor Rick Scott recently announced one appointment and two reappointments to the Florida Endowment Foundation for Vocational Rehabilitation (Able Trust).

    Leslie Goldman, 54, of Tampa, is a product manager for Verizon. He succeeds James Harding and is appointed for a term beginning July 10 and ending September 30, 2014.

    Anne Marie Taglienti, 49, of Coral Springs, is the vice president of philanthropy for JP Morgan Chase. Karen Moore, of Tallahassee, is the chief executive officer of Moore Communications Group. Both have been reappointed for a term beginning July 10 and ending September 30, 2016.



    Governor Rick Scott Appoints Six to the Florida Rehabilitation Council

    Governor Rick Scott recently announced two appointments and four reappointments to the Florida Rehabilitation Council.

    Christine Goulbourne, 41, of Trinity, is the director of programs at the Family Network on Disabilities. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning July 24 and ending June 30, 2016.

    John Pribanic, 39, of Bushnell, is the CEO of the Diversity Initiative. He succeeds Dr. Mohammad Choudhry and is appointed for a term beginning July 24 and ending June 30, 2017.

    Shawn Peters, 39, of Royal Palm Beach, is a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the Florida Department of Education. Janet Servet, 57, of Edgewater, is the executive director of New Horizons Service Dogs. Kara Tucker, 30, of Neptune Beach, is a counselor for Disabilities Resource Center. Rebecca Witonsky, 38, of Boca Raton, is an advocate for persons with disabilities. All have been reappointed for a term beginning July 24 and ending June 30, 2017.



    Governor Reappoints Three to the Florida Independent Living Council

    Governor Rick Scott announced three reappointments to the Florida Independent Living Council.

    Rose Lee Archer Di Capua, of Boca Raton, is a television producer and anchor with Rose Lee Productions. Shelley Gottsagen, of Boynton Beach, is the development and community relations manager at Center for Independent Living of South Florida, Inc. John Davis, of Perry, is a youth advisor for Florida Youth Council. All have been reappointed for a term beginning July 1 and ending June 30, 2017.



    A Happy Employment

    By Susan Hansen

    Opens in New Window

    When asked what he enjoys doing in his free time, Keith Haugabook replied, “Get ready for work.” There was no shortage of enthusiasm when he spoke about his job at a local McDonald’s restaurant in St. Petersburg. Haugabook was born with a developmental disability and is an APD customer.

    McDonald’s store manager, Janet Zip, was immediately won over during the interview by Haugabook’s polite demeanor, eagerness to work, and his winning smile. He was hired right away and they quickly found a position that was perfect for him; making Happy Meals.

    Opens in New Window

    He is able to spread his love for fun and smiles at his job. Haugabook has become an integral part of the McDonald’s team. Zip said, “Keith is so cheerful, he really gives everyone a nice feeling. He’s always happy to come to work. He comes in early, smiling and says hi to everyone. He also loves making happy meals, he is an awesome employee and everyone loves him.” One of his coworkers Stephanie Landrum said, “Keith is very friendly and has a great work ethic. He really brightens up the atmosphere.”

    “I like my job and I like making money,” Haugabook said. When he’s not at work, he enjoys playing sports like basketball and baseball. He also plays music for his church choir.



    Champion Staff
    Melanie Mowry Etters - Editor
    Lindsey Boyington - Writer
    Christine Call - Writer
    Kimberly Tharpe - Masthead Design
    John Milton - Webmaster


    The Agency Supports Persons with Developmental Disabilities in Living, Learning, and Working in their Communities. | Copyright ©2014 State of Florida | Plug-ins