Planning Resources > State Agencies Serving People with Disabilities

Agency for Health Care Administration – AHCA works to provide accessible, affordable, quality health care for all Floridians. It administers the Medicaid program, licenses and regulates health facilities, and provides information to Floridians about the quality of the health care they receive. 1-888-419-3456. is a special Web site created by AHCA's Center for Health Information and Policy Analysis to fulfill the agency's goal of making information more available and useful, so that consumers can play a more active role in their health care. The site lets Floridians compare the quality of a wide range of providers, including physicians, nursing homes, health plans, and hospitals.

Medicaid is the state and federal partnership that provides health coverage for selected categories of people with low incomes and people with developmental disabilities. Its purpose is to improve the health of people who might otherwise go without medical care for themselves and their children. Medicaid is different in every state.

Agency for Persons with Disabilities – APD works in partnership with local communities to support people with developmental disabilities in living, learning, and working in their communities. The agency provides critical services and supports so that customers with developmental disabilities can reach their full potential. APD serves people with spina bifida, autism, cerebral palsy, Prader-Willi syndrome, and mental retardation. In addition to its 14 area offices throughout the state, APD operates the Mentally Retarded Defendant Program in Chattahoochee and Developmental Disability Centers in Marianna and Gainesville. 1-866-APD-CARES (1-866-273-2273).

Agency for Workforce Innovation – AWI is responsible for implementing policy in the areas of workforce development, welfare transition, unemployment compensation, labor market information, early learning and school readiness. (850) 245-7105.

Clearinghouse on Disability Information – Administered by the Governor's Commission on Disabilities, the Clearinghouse is a one-stop source of information on disability issues. It makes referrals to the best agencies or organizations to fill a variety of special needs. 1-877-232-4968

Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged – An independent commission housed administratively within the Department of Transportation, its mission is to ensure the availability of efficient, cost-effective, and quality transportation services for transportation disadvantaged persons. (850) 410-5700.

Department of Children and Families – DCF provides information on a wide range of health and human services provided through the state of Florida. Specific programs of interest to people with disabilities are described below. (850) 487-1111.

The Adult Services Program provides limited in-home support services. They usually are provided to individuals who do not receive services from other specialized sources, such as APD. However, some people with developmental disabilities live in homes licensed as Assisted Living Facilities if that is the best way to meet their needs.

The Florida Abuse Hotline provides a way to report abuse of the state's most vulnerable citizens. Florida law requires that anyone who knows or suspects that a child or an adult with disability is being abused, neglected, or exploited must report it. Reports can be filed on the telephone or online. 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).

The Food Stamp Program is a federally funded program that provides food stamps that may be used like cash to purchase food. Certain items are excluded, such as candy, sodas and paper goods. People who have a low income are eligible for assistance. In most cases, people who receive SSI would be eligible. The program is administered by DCF's Office of Economic Self-Sufficiency.

The Substance Abuse Program provides help to people who abuse alcohol or other drugs. The Mental Health Program provides assistance to people who have mental health problems. If a person with a developmental disability needs either substance abuse or mental health services and is refused by either of these programs, involvement by the support coordinator or other advocate is essential in securing them.

Department of Education – Some of DOE's programs that apply to people with disabilities are described below. (850) 245-0505.

The Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services administers programs for students with disabilities and for gifted students. It also coordinates student services throughout the state and participates in multiple-agency efforts designed to strengthen the quality and variety of services available to students with special needs. (850) 245-0475.

The Division of Blind Services provides orientation and mobility training, including Braille reading and writing, typing, homemaking, manual arts, personal counseling, recreational services, vocational exploration, and specialized vocational training for persons who are legally blind. Additional services may include training in personal adjustment, eye medical services, glasses, low vision aids, and diagnostic and maintenance services. 1-800-342-1828.

The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) helps people with disabilities find meaningful careers. VR assists with training, medical treatment, accommodations, and other services so that a person with a disability may become employed. These services may include medical, psychological, or vocational assessments; vocational or career planning; and counseling to support the exercise of informed choice in the development of the individual plan for employment (IPE) which includes the services required to achieve the person’s employment goals. VR's School to Work Transition program involves activities that help students enter training and/or work after leaving high school. Other services are available for eligible adults of working age. If the person has a developmental disability and is a consumer of APD, services from VR should always be coordinated through the support coordinator. 1-800-451-4327.

Just Read, Families! is a summer reading program that provides parents with information about actively reading with their children during the summer months. (850) 245-0503.

Local school districts provide a wide range of services to school-age children with developmental disabilities. Every year, each school district must submit a plan to DOE outlining the special programs they plan to provide for exceptional students. This designation includes persons with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities. Annual funding is provided by the state based on each county’s plan. Educational services may be available through public schools and special education classes in hospitals, homes or other noneducational facilities. Districts will sometimes assign special education teachers to preschool and day care programs to work with children with disabilities. DOE also may offer vocational education to individuals with disabilities.

Department of Elder Affairs – DOEA is the agency constitutionally designated by Florida voters to "serve as the primary state agency" responsible for administering human services programs for the elderly (Section 430.03 Florida Statutes). Its purpose is to serve elders in all possible ways to help them keep their self-sufficiency and self-determination. Several specialized functions of the agency are described below. 1-800-96-ELDER (35337).

An elderly parent or caregiver may be able to receive services from DOEA, making it possible to remain in the home with a person with developmental disabilities, thus allowing both to remain in their home and community. Both DOEA and APD may offer many of the same services, and it is possible that a person with a developmental disorder and the caregiver may be receiving like services from different departments, or sometimes one department may be able to provide for both. It is important that the support coordinator be aware of dual needs so that the two departments can work together to maximize the potential for both the elderly parent or primary caregiver and the person with a developmental disability.

As the person with a developmental disability becomes older, there may be specialized programs only in DOEA that can meet certain needs, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Therefore, it is important that the availability of services in both programs should be considered in order to better meet the consumers' needs and maximize the use of valuable resources.

The Department of Elder Affairs also provides services through Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs). ALFs are residential care facilities that provide housing, meals, personal care, and supportive services to older persons and disabled adults who are unable to live independently. ALFs are intended to be a less costly alternative to more restrictive, institutional settings for individuals who do not require 24-hour nursing supervision. ALFs are licensed and inspected by the Agency for Health Care Administration’s Assisted Living Unit and are regulated in a manner so as to encourage dignity, individuality, and choice for residents, while providing reasonable assurance for their safety and welfare.

Department of Health – DOH works to promote, protect and improve the health of all people in Florida through public health initiatives fulfilling these main roles: health protection, health promotion and disease prevention, and health treatment. Some of the department's specialized functions are described below. (850) 245-4444.

The Children's Medical Services (CMS) program provides children with special health care needs with a family centered, managed system of care. Children with special health care needs are those children under age 21 whose serious or chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional conditions require extensive preventive and maintenance care beyond that required by typically healthy children. CMS also provides early intervention services to high-risk children up to three years of age through its Early Steps program. (850) 245-4209.

Each county in Florida has a county health department. These programs provide a variety of services that may differ among counties.

The Division of Disability Determinations makes decisions regarding the medical eligibility of Florida citizens applying for disability benefits. Applications are filed at Social Security field offices for federal Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits, and at local offices of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) for benefits under the state Medically Needy program. 1-800-825-5736.

The Florida Directory of Early Childhood Services (Central Directory) provides services to families and providers seeking advocacy, education, training, resources, referrals, and information on disability services available in their communities. The Central Directory maintains a database which contains a wide range of information on community services, counseling, diagnosis/evaluation, early intervention services, education and training, equipment, medical screening, special education services, support groups, and therapies. It's a joint project of the departments of Health and Education, the Office of Early Learning, and the Children's Forum, a nonprofit organization. 1-800-654-4440.

Department of Transportation – DOT's Web site provides information on many topics of interest to people with disabilities, including parking permits, toll permits, driver licenses, safety programs, and ADA issues. 1-866-374-FDOT (3368).

Division of Emergency Management – The division plans for and responds to both natural and man-made disasters, ranging from floods and hurricanes to incidents involving hazardous materials and nuclear power. It prepares and implements a statewide Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, and routinely conducts extensive exercises to test state and county emergency response capabilities. The division is the state's liaison with federal and local agencies on emergencies of all kinds. Its State Emergency Response Team (SERT) ensures that Florida is prepared to respond to emergencies, recover from them, and mitigate their impact. Of special interest to people with disabilities is the division's newly created position of Statewide Disability Coordinator for Emergency Management. The officeholder works as an advocate for the unique disaster-related needs of persons with disabilities. (850) 413-9969.

Florida Commission on Human Relations – FCHR was established by the Florida Legislature to investigate and resolve discrimination complaints in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, and Florida's Whistle-Blower's Act. The commission also provides training to Florida businesses and works to raise awareness on human and civil rights issues. 1-800-342-8170.

Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind – FSDB is the state's central public school for eligible students in pre-school through 12th grade who are deaf or hard of hearing and blind or low-vision. There is no cost to families for tuition for eligible Florida residents. FSDB awards standard and special diplomas and prepares its graduates for a wide range of professional careers and trades. More than 70 percent of its graduates continue their education at colleges, universities, and technical training centers. 1-800-344-3732.