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"A huge win": Florida Senate okays disability services bill led by Naples Mom

Posted at 5:19 PM, Feb 16, 2024

NAPLES, Fla — A Naples mom is celebrating after the Florida Senate greenlit legislation she helped advocate for, aimed at improving disability services in the state. Stephanie Nordin, the president of Autism Collier, had worked alongside local lawmakers and advocates across the state for over a year to push the legislation forward for a vote.

"It's so needed and it's going to bring big change this year," Nordin said.

The bipartisan legislation aims to broaden disability services for families across the state. Nordin spoke to Fox 4 about the impact it will have and emphasized how it would help people in her type of situation.

"What it does, it helps streamline people onto the Med-Waiver – which is our long-term care support for people with intellectual disabilities. And it will cut our waitlist down; it will improve people getting better access to services," Nordin explained.

The bill also allocates $39 million in funding to support the healthcare system in the disability sector.It also accelerates the crisis eligibility determination timeline from 45 days to 15 days and adjusts the age threshold for aging caregivers from 70 to 60 and a few other actionable items.

Nordin's advocacy stems from personal experience. Last year, her autistic son suffered a tragic accident when he fell outside of a school window.

"He broke his skull, his back, his arms, his legs, his ribs, and we were in crisis. And it took us over a year, 385 to get support," Nordin shared.

Since then, Nordin has been tirelessly advocating for families in similar situations, working with Collier County Public Schools and spreading awareness on a local level.

"It gives hope, it gives joy and peace... you know families, we just want to be like everyone else and live our best lives, and this will help a lot of people," Nordin emphasized.

The bill, SB 1758, now awaits signing by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to take effect. It is expected to reach his desk in July.