April 2021 Parent Letter

April 20, 2021

Dear Key family,                                                                     

It is with great pleasure to say that we are beginning to see some normality return to our Key Training Center operations!  March was a good month for the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines.  Currently, 80% of Residential Clients, 56% of Day Services clients, and 74% of Day Services staff, and 22% of Residential staff have been vaccinated.  More vaccines will be dispersed during April. On the whole, most residents and staff experienced mild vaccine side effects. For the last two months, our bi-weekly staff testing results have been negative. 

It is has been over a year since this pandemic profoundly affected our services.  Once again, our number one priority from the outset was to protect our day service clients, residents, and all department staff from COVID-19.   Because of our aggressive and diligent proactive steps regarding COVID-19, we have only seen 12% of our 285 staff and 6% of our one 148 residential clients affected to date. Only 7 positive COVID-19 tested clients required isolation placement.  This is truly remarkable!  Our strong leadership and management teams, dedicated staff members, and clients who took our instructions to heart are our HEROES indeed!

Our Day Services program has been moving to Phase 2, expanding our single group home pods to include two group homes.  Community client pods and our group home pods continue to be separated.  We currently have 82% of our clients attending the Day Services program.  We continue to have clients participating in telephonic Day Services via zoom. 

If our community and at the Key Center continue to have low COVID-19 infection rates, we will move to Phase 3 in May as many of our clients and staff will have finished their 2nd round of COVID-19 vaccines and completed the two-week after period.  As you know, pods’ isolation has been tough on our clients, especially in residential.  They love and care for their housemates but are ready to see and interact with their friends.  We will continue to follow CDC, local health department, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and Agency for Healthcare Care Administration guidelines to operate smartly and safely.

Respecting choice, some of our Day Service and Residential clients have chosen not to take the Covid-19 vaccine at this time and will be divided at the Day Services program from those who have decided to take the vaccine and this will most likely change as we learn more.

The latest news from Tallahassee is not encouraging. We have heard that Conference started this last weekend.  It seems both the Senate and House have the desire to do something, but at this point, no iBudget Home and Community- Based Wavier rate increases have been addressed.  We are in a dire situation with recruiting and maintaining our direct care staff due to low wages.  It is has been over a year since this Covid-19 pandemic profoundly affected our services.  We never closed our doors or stopped day or residential services; on the contrary, our residential program was staffed 24/7 for many months. 

We currently have 28 direct care positions open.  To meet service delivery needs, our overtime is high and current dedicated staff are tired. We have management picking up shifts. Our next big hurdle will be implementing and planning the recently passed FLORIDA STATE MINIMUM WAGE AMENDMENT INCREASE. This will have a substantial negative financial impact on the Key Training Center. We currently HAVE SEVEN DIRECT CARE POSITIONS that will need to be moved to $10.00 by Oct. 1, 2021. This FIRST MANDATORY INCREASE TO $10.00 will be over $100,000+ ANNUAL IMPACT TO US.

We need your help in asking our local Florida Legislators (Senator President Simpson, simpson.wilton.web@flsenate.gov and Representative Ralph Massullo, ralph.massullo@myfloridahouse.gov) for their leadership in TALKING TO OTHER SENATORS/REPRESENTATIVES and EMBOLDEN SENATE/ HOUSE MEMBERS to SUPPORT an INVESTMENT in the INTELLECTUAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES (I/DD) SERVICE SYSTEM to help STABILIZE a GROSSLY UNDERFUNDED SERVICE SYSTEM. The requested investment will cost $33.4 MILLION IN GENERAL REVENUE FUNDS and will DRAW DOWN an ADDITIONAL $50 MILLION in FEDERAL MEDICAID MATCH DOLLARS.

The two KEY LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEES that play an important role in this decision is the SENATE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (Chair Senator Bean, bean.aaron.web@flsenate.gov and Vice-Chair Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez, rodriguez.anamaria.web@flsenate.gov) and HOUSE HEALTH CARE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE (Chair Rep. Avila, bryan.avila@myfloridahouse.gov and Vice-Chair, Rep. Yarborough, clay.yarborough@myfloridahouse.gov)

Action needs to take place immediately.  We call on you to advocate for an iBudget Rate increases that directly impact non-profit organizations, like the Key Training Center, that provides year-round services to adults with I/DD. We currently serve over 300 individuals, with 148 of those calling the Key Center home via 18 community homes and four apartment complexes.

Please know how deeply I appreciate your advocacy and support. Individuals like you allow us to continue the promise that each man and woman at the Key Training Center realizes their goals of learning, living, playing, and working to their full potential.

Best regards,

Melissa Walker

Executive Director