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DeSantis touts more spending for the developmentally disabled in Florida

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(The Center Square) — Floridians with developmental disabilities will benefit from a record level of funding for direct services after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a multi-billion dollar investment from the state.

DeSantis spoke at the Els Center in Jupiter on Monday and announced that as part of the Live Healthy legislation spearheaded by Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, and his Focus on Florida’s Bright Future Budget that $2.2 billion will be going to the Agency for Persons with Disabilities for services through the iBudget waiver.

This would allow those living with autism and other developmental disabilities to access social, behavioral, therapeutic and medical services.

“That is the highest amount ever appropriated in the history of Florida by a country mile, and the iBudget waiver offers an array of social, medical, behavioral, and therapeutic services to individuals who have developmental disabilities,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis stated that the record-high funding includes $200 million to support an across-the-board increase for iBudget waiver providers, $64.8 million to enroll additional individuals in crisis onto the iBudget waiver and $55.7 million to enroll individuals currently in a pre-enrollment category.

“So, this is a big deal, this is a big investment, it shows the state of Florida’s commitment,” DeSantis said, adding that he has also approved an additional $1 million for the Els Center of Excellence recreational complex.

DeSantis noted that the new facility will provide a specialized swim and water safety program, aqua therapy sessions, indoor sports and fitness, and a specialized autism-friendly hurricane shelter.

“The facility will also provide a specialized athletic curriculum that gives parents, teachers, and coaches the best tools to assist children and students with unique abilities. We want them to get active, we want them to live healthier lives, and that’s exactly what they’re doing here at the Els Center.” DeSantis said.

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Taylor Hatch said that more individuals living with developmental disabilities will be empowered by the funding provided by DeSantis and the Legislature.

“This historic funding will provide services that empower a greater number of individuals and their families to thrive through the power of partnership, highlighting the importance of a strong provider workforce through first-ever across-the-board pay increases as well as focusing on the importance of community partners,” Hatch said.