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  • FSACentral Staff

Live Healthy Bill that Includes 10% Provider Rate Increase Headed to Governor's Desk



Patrick D'Arcy and Michelle Zeman, self-advocates and FL SAND Fellows from Orlando, at the FL SAND Exhibit at Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day at the Florida State Capitol February 7, 2024.

The Florida Legislature appears to be acknowledging the vast need for increased pay and support for direct support professionals who assist people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to live in the community. The aptly named "Live Healthy" bill that includes a 10 percent raise for all categories of Home and Community Based Services providers has passed both chambers of the Florida Legislature. If signed by Governor Ron DeSantis it will become law July 1, 2024.

 

Many individuals with I/DD receive Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) funded by Medicaid. These services allow them to live in the home of their choice in the community instead of an institution. Because pay rates for their providers are very low, disability agencies and self-advocates reach out to Florida’s lawmakers each year urging them to fund pay increases that they believe will help attract more and better trained providers.

 

“People with I/DD have a right to live in the community; therefore, their providers must be paid a living wage. There are some people that need more assistance than others to live independently; however, all people

with disabilities deserve to be treated with dignity. This is why we must give these unsung heroes the pay and benefits they deserve,” said Patrick D'Arcy, a self-advocate from Orlando.


Nicole Coratti of Collier County (left) with State Representative Lauren Melo (right) in 2022

D'Arcy and colleague, Nicole Coratti of Collier County, were at the Florida State Capitol advocating for increases in provider rates and other disability needs on Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day February 7.

 

Healthcare is always a prominent topic in any legislative session and the 2024 Florida session is no different. Coratti and D’Arcy believe it’s vital that the health of people with I/DD be included in these discussions. "Live Healthy" includes more than a provider pay raise

 

Coratti receives Home and Community Based Services to help her dress and bathe each day, assist her with grocery shopping and cooking her meals, and to accompany her on doctors and other appointments. She reports that for more than a decade she has had direct support staff resign a number of times due to their pay not keeping up with their cost of living. Some quit to return to former jobs in food service or hospitality because the pay was higher. They often did this regretfully because they enjoyed the fulfillment and skills development that came with helping someone live independently and be included in the community.


“It was not just a job to them, but required a level of commitment and professionalism that increased their self-worth,” Coratti said.


In the past few years, lawmakers have increased provider pay rates but those increases have not kept up with inflation and have not resulted in any substantial improvement in people being able to find qualified providers. The need for fair, competitive wages is urgent.


Coratti and D’Arcy are thankful to legislators for supporting the increase and hope that rates will continue to grow each year until they are competitive and result in filling the vast needs of so many who are approved for services but cannot find workers to provide them. With thousands of other self-advocates in Florida, they will urge the governor to sign it into law.


D'Arcy reports his waiver support coordinator would also like to see innovation in how increases are awarded. Providers who receive good reviews from clients and employers and bring in new clients to their agencies should be rewarded with merit increases, he said.

 

Here's what self-advocates and others can do to see Live Healthy signed into law:

·     Call or email Governor DeSantis and urge him to sign the bill.

·     Call, email, or post on your legislators' social media pages to thank them for supporting Live Healthy and the provider rate increase.

·     In future years, continue to advocate for steady increases in provider rates.

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