Tuesday, June 28, 2005

With thousands of disabled Floridians waiting for services, millions remain unspent

More than 14,000 developmentally disabled Floridians have been waiting, sometimes years, for professional help, but as much as $50 million budgeted for services to them remains unspent.

The money is likely to be lost to a general state reserve fund.

About two years ago, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities cut funding to group homes and adult day training programs, saying the program was facing a $27.5 million deficit. Group homes closed and services were reduced to some of Florida’s most vulnerable residents.

Now state legislators and advocates for the developmentally disabled are questioning whether the deficit ever existed. The state’s inspector general, asked by Gov. Jeb Bush to look into the agency’s funding, concluded that it had set aside $30.5 million from its budget before claiming it was facing a deficit.

Lost in the bureaucratic shuffle, advocates say, are people with mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism and Down’s syndrome.

Providers of services to them have sued the state. The case is scheduled for trial in October.

Read the St. Petersburg Times story here and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune story here.


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