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Thank You Florida!

Governor Scott Proclaims March 14-18th Down Syndrome Awareness Week

TALLAHASSEE, FL – March 14, 2016 – As World Down Syndrome Day on March 21st approaches, Gov. Rick Scott recently executed a proclamation declaring March 14th– March 18th as “Down Syndrome Awareness Week” in Florida.

“The Down Syndrome Association of Tallahassee (DSAT) is encouraged by the Governor’s continued efforts to foster awareness in the state of Florida,” said Amber Davis Williams, DSAT President. “It is our hope that this proclamation will focus the spotlight on the important and valuable role individuals with Down syndrome play in our state.  We are even more encouraged by the important strides taken in the 2016 Legislative Session, which will expand services and create greater opportunities for our loved ones.”

Whether they know it or not, individuals with Down syndrome and their families have had a champion in the Florida Legislature.  Senate President Andy Gardiner has worked tirelessly throughout his tenure on behalf of all individuals with unique abilities, increasing funding for people with unique abilities by nearly $800 million during his two-year term as Senate President.  Of the Governor’s Proclamation, President Gardiner said, “We are excited to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Week in Florida and to announce the passage of House Bill 221 late last Friday, the final day of our 2016 Legislative Session. This important legislation requires health insurance contracts to cover speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and applied behavior analysis services for individuals with Down syndrome, just as they are currently covered for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

“Speech, occupational and physical therapy can make a big difference in the ability of individuals with Down Syndrome to further their education and career goals, while greatly improving their quality of life. Insurance coverage will make these therapies more affordable for families across Florida who have either been struggling to pay out-of-pocket, or going without these life-changing services. I am so grateful to my colleagues in the Florida House and Senate for passing this critical legislation that will mean so much to families across our state who have a family member with Down syndrome.”

Claire Toman, high school senior and DSAT member, had the opportunity to intern for President Gardiner during the 2015 and 2016 Legislative Sessions.  When asked about her experience and the progress being made, she said, “I am happy to have worked for Senator Gardiner because he really believes that people with Down syndrome “can” and “do” and “will” and these new laws will make it easier for all of us with unique abilities to be successful in life.  I am going to college in the fall!”  DSAT President Amber Davis Williams added, “Claire is a trailblazer in our community and a tremendous example of the bright futures attainable for our loved ones with Down syndrome.  We could not be more proud of her successes and look forward to following her journey to college.”

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Claire Toman, 19, has interned in Senator Gardiner’s office for 2 years.

“Together, we are promoting Florida as the state where all people have the access and opportunity to achieve their educational and career goals.”

Florida is quickly becoming one of the most welcoming states in the county when it comes to opportunities for those with unique abilities.   “From the changes we made years ago to empower parents in the Individualized Education Plan process, to eliminating the special diploma, to the creation and expansion of the Personal Learning Scholarship Account Program, to the establishment of post-secondary options and promotion of career opportunities, I am so grateful to my Senate colleagues, Speaker Crisafulli and Governor Scott for their ongoing support and commitment to making this complete pathway to economic independence a reality for Floridians with unique abilities,” said President Gardiner. “Together, we are promoting Florida as the state where all people have the access and opportunity to achieve their educational and career goals.”

DSAT is excited about the long term implications of the efforts of both Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature to bring awareness of Down syndrome statewide and to create opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome. Our loved ones with Down syndrome are worthy of acceptance and every opportunity for education and independence the state of Florida has to offer.

This week families, friends and professionals across Florida are encouraged to share their own knowledge and experiences with the public in order to raise awareness and encourage further acceptance of and research about one of the world’s most common chromosomal conditions, also known as Trisomy 21.

DSAT encourages everyone to check with your local associations for World Down Syndrome Day celebrations across the state.  For more information on DSAT’s World Down Syndrome Day Celebration, please go to www.dsatallahassee.com.

View the Proclamation!

The 2016 Legislative session was, without a doubt, a success for those with unique abilities in the state of Florida.

Funding Highlights:

  • $1.1 billion, including $102 million in new funding to transition waitlist individuals to the iBudget waiver and fund provider rate increases
  • $67 million for Early Steps
  • $237.4 million for the John M. McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program, including nearly $20 million in new funding
  • $73.3 million for the Gardiner Scholarship Program, including nearly $20 million in new funding
  • $8 million for the Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program
  • $216.6 million for Vocational Rehabilitation
  • $10 million for the Florida Communities Trust, dedicated to recreation access for all – parks and trails accessible to people with unique abilities
  • $25.9 million within the State Housing Initiatives Partnership specifically allocated to serve people with special needs, with first priority given to people with developmental disabilities
  • $55.2 million, including $2.4 million in new funding for the Transportation Disadvantage Program

Claire Toman in 2015 talking about her future!