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Arc Mourns Passing of 'Gentle Giant' Gerald Simmons

Gerald Simmons

The entire Arc of Alachua County Family mourns the passing of Gerald Simmons. Gerald passed away at his home on Monday, September 13th.

Most of you know Gerald Simmons as the 'face' of our Gone4Ever Shredding Team, but he was so much more than just an Arc employee. He was a great friend to all of us here at The Arc - employee and client alike. Whether it was wishing folks a 'beautiful day' in the morning as he made his way to the shredding room, comforting a client who was having a bad day, or just brightening someone's day with his big smile and huge presence, Gerald, the 'Gentle Giant,' will be greatly missed.

The Arc is making grief counseling available to both clients and employees in the days following Gerald's passing should they wish to avail themselves of the opportunity to talk to someone. We all take solace in the fact that given his faith and his convictions, Gerald is in a better place now.

Rest In Peace, Gerald.

- The Arc Family


COVID-19 Alert from the Arc of Alachua County - Friday, September 3, 2021

Arc of Alachua County Plans to Resume COVID Testing & Reopen Day Program in Mid-September

The surge of positive COVID-19 cases and the Delta variant in our community beginning six weeks ago forced The Arc to close its Day Program on July 23rd. Since then, the Leadership of The Arc of Alachua County has been busy making plans for the reopening of its Day Program.

In order for the reopening of its Day Program to be successful and sustainable, The Arc has decided to resume COVID testing of all clients and employees on Monday, September 13th. This testing will continue every 2 weeks until such time as this current community surge in COVID-19 cases recedes.

The plan is to reopen The Arc's Day Program to residential clients on Monday, September 20th, with a limited number of group homes attending Day Program activities on particular days of the week, in a staggered fashion. This is The Arc's plan today. However, this is a fluid plan; one that can be altered as needed should there be a change in the nature or severity of the COVID-19 pandemic on our employees or clients.

We thank all Arc employees, clients, and families for your patience and cooperation as the Leadership Team continues to provide the best possible guidance during the pandemic.


A message from Arc President/CEO Mark A. Swain on the Pandemic

During this COVID-19 Pandemic, The Arc of Alachua County has as its top priority maintaining the health and safety of our clients, employees, families and friends. I know that it can be challenging and frustrating reconciling adherence to the proper mitigation strategies with communication with your loved ones. Please know that The Arc is working overtime keeping all members of our family safe and well during this difficult time. I pledge to you that we will get through this pandemic together as long as we stay united, and treat each other with dignity and respect.


Mark A. Swain Interview Highlights Follow-Up Story on The Arc's DSP Crisis by TV20's Amber Pellicone

As a follow-up to her July 1st story on the impact of hourly wage hikes for DSPs in state-run institutions on the ability of private providers to hire and retain DSPs, TV20's Amber Pellicone interviewed Arc of Alachua County President/CEO Mark A. Swain on July 14th for a follow-up piece on the current status of The Arc's DSP shortage and efforts underway at the state level to address wage inequities.

To watch Amber's superb follow-up package, click the Watch Now button below.

Watch Now »
Mark Swain

Mark A. Swain’s Message on DSP Shortage makes it to the Gainesville Sun as a ‘Letter to the Editor’

Mark Swain ED The Arc of Alachua County

Local people with developmental disabilities face an uncertain future as pay for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who work in institutions skyrocket while pay for DSPs who work in community-based agencies plummet.

DSPs are the backbone of The Arc of Alachua County. They work directly with developmentally disabled adults. They provide assistance with daily activities like bathing and dressing, while also helping with more complex tasks like monitoring serious medical conditions, responding to health emergencies and providing state-regulated medication administration.

It’s a serious profession with serious responsibilities that cannot be done without a full complement of professional training protocols and ongoing competency-based performance testing. Without trained, dedicated community-based DSPs, many people with developmental disabilities would have to live in state institutions.

Already short DSPs, The Arc and other community-based agencies saw the COVID-19 pandemic force remaining DSPs to work 6-7 days a week. In fact, Arc DSPs have been stretched so thin (we currently have 55 DSP openings), we are forced to turn down requests from families desperate for much-need services for their loved ones.

On July 1, Florida increased the wages of DSPs working in state-run institutions to $13 per hour. The Legislature denied the same increase for DSPs working in community-based settings (in Florida, the Legislature controls the amount of money both receive).

This will have devastating effects on DSPs who work in community-based agencies who make $10 to $11 an hour and the clients who count on them. State-run institutions like Tacachale have suffered similar DSP shortages; they also desperately need more DSPs.

Unfortunately, the decision to raise the hourly wage for DSPs in state-run institutions will only create a large pay inequity, drawing DSPs away from community-based service providers. Ben Doerr, current treasurer of The Arc’s board of directors, states, “We are grateful for the state’s support provided through its Medicaid waiver and other programs that benefit these extraordinary and wonderful members of our community. However, providers are now reaching a critical shortage of financial and other resources needed to provide quality care on a continuing basis.

“Simply put, the costs associated with providing needed services and meeting the state’s care standards are exceeding the level of reimbursement. It is most likely unsustainable at this rate for many providers. I am hopeful that the state will consider taking action when it is more fully briefed on the situation.”

There is a remedy available to the state of Florida that will undue this pay inequity and attract more DSPs to both systems. Florida has access to $450 million in federal COVID funds specifically earmarked for community-based services for developmentally disabled citizens.

Releasing these funds would give private organizations like The Arc the ability to raise DSP pay. Florida officials are considering this solution right now, a solution that would last two years.

This decision would not only help the system recover from COVID, but would also give a head start on tackling the looming voter mandate to raise the hourly wage of these same workers to $15 per hour.

If Florida raises wages for DSPs in state institutions only, though, while refusing to do so for private sector DSPs, the DSP shortage will get worse. Community-based providers will reduce services, or close their doors altogether.

As Pat Beach, a member of Arc’s board of directors and the mother of a son with developmental disabilities, points out: “My son has developed close relationships with his caregivers. They have become his second family, and he is reliant on their care. When schedules are changed, and familiar staff are no longer present, he becomes very anxious.”

We want the developmentally disabled to live safely in the community without the threat of being forced into state-run institutions. This can only be accomplished if Florida provides equal pay to community-based DSPs. Please contact the Governor’s Office and let your opinion be heard before it’s too late.

~ Mark A. Swain - President/CEO

Read at Gainesville Sun »

For more on this ongoing Arc DSP Shortage Story, click on the following link to this story from Sun reporter Jack Prator. Article published and available in the July 1st edition of the Gainesville Sun.

Learn More »

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The Arc of Florida announces appointment of Alan Abramowitz as Chief Executive Officer


The Arc of Florida is pleased to announce the appointment of Alan F. Abramowitz, Esq., as its Chief Executive Officer.

Abramowitz currently serves as the Executive Director of the Florida Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Office representing more than 35,000 children per year and managing a network of more than 10,000 court appointed volunteers who represent children in child welfare cases. Abramowitz has served in this capacity for more than 10 years under Governors DeSantis, Scott and Crist. Prior to this, he held leadership positions at the Florida Departments of Children and Families and Juvenile Justice. In addition, Abramowitz served as a JAG officer in the Army Reserves and the National Guard, and was a Peace Corp volunteer.

According to Senator Aaron Bean, President Pro Tempore of the Florida Senate and Chair of the Health and Human ServicesAppropriations Subcommittee, “Alan is an excellent choice to be the new CEO of The Arc of Florida. He has the respect of people throughout government, including the Legislature. He also has the leadership skills and experience to lead The Arc in its mission. Most important is that he has the heart for the critical advocacy and service the organization provides for vulnerable Floridians.”

“We are very fortunate to have someone with Alan’s experience, skills, leadership qualities, passion, and commitment to excellence as our new CEO. He has the full support and confidence of The Arc’s Board as well as our many community stakeholders. We look forward to working with him as we face unprecedented challenges and seek new opportunities to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”  ~ Mark A. Swain, Board Chair of The Arc of Florida and long-time advocate for people with disabilities

Jim DeBeaugrine, former Executive Director of the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities and current interim CEO of the Arc of Florida said, “I believe The Arc of Florida hit a home run when it recruited Alan as CEO. I look forward to handing over the reins to him and to supporting him and the organization moving forward. As a family member whose life has been directly touched by The Arc, I am extremely happy that the organization will be in such good hands moving forward.”

Abramowitz added that he is “excited to join The Arc of Florida as its new CEO to support community-based organizations that advocate for and with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I am committed to ensuring that every person and family we serve has access to information, advocacy, and opportunities to support full participation in the community. Inclusion, opportunity, and support are the foundation for each person to reach their full potential. I look forward to traveling around the state and listening to and learning from our community partners.”

Abramowitz holds a Juris Doctorate degree from Florida State University and a Masters of Public Administration degree from the University of Central Florida. He will begin in his new position on June 1.

The Arc of Florida for almost 70 years has been Florida’s preeminent grass roots advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. With 28 chapters across the state and private partners that are committed to the same mission, The Arc of Florida advocates to ensure that people with disabilities enjoy full inclusion in their communities and access to supports and services that make community living possible. In addition to its advocacy work, the organization manages a network of more than 300 dental providers who have made access to dental care possible for thousands of Floridians who would otherwise go unserved.


The Arc on The Air

Hear our latest radio spot featuring CEO/President Mark Swain.


Gone4ever Shredding

ATTENTION: Due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases locally and the presence of the contagious Delta variant of COVID, the Leadership of The Arc of Alachua County has suspended all activities at our main campus across from Santa Fe College and its Day Program, including its Gone4Ever Shredding Program, until further notice. This action requires suspension of all shredding drop offs at our main campus on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. However, The Arc will be resuming a full schedule of shredding pickups from our current, contracted Gone4Ever (G4) customers beginning the week of Monday, August 30, 2021.

This service will only occur with customers with a current G4E contract with The Arc of Alachua County. Current G4E customers are asked to contact Dr. Mark A. Johnson at mjohnson@arcalachua.org or 352-246-3516 to schedule a pickup or to have our shred crew chief contact you to schedule a pickup. As always, The Arc's primary responsibility must remain to protect the health and safety of our clients and employees.

Should any of our current G4E clients or any of our shredding customers require further clarification, please contact Dr. Mark A. Johnson at: mjohnson@arcalachua.org or 352-246-3516.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.


Bright Sunshine, Cool Temps & Sizzling Golf Highlights 23rd Annual Bob Rose Golf Scramble

Friends of The Arc of Alachua County left thoughts of the COVID-19 pandemic far behind as 90 golfers, 30 sponsors, and more than 30 volunteers converged on Hawkstone (formerly Haile Plantation) Golf & Country Club on Friday, April 2nd for The 23rd Annual Bob Rose Golf Scramble benefitting The Arc of Alachua County and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Arc of Alachua County’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the Bob Rose Golf Scramble proved to be quite the 'tonic' for golfers looking to hit the links and forget about COVID. The winning team of T.J. Brown, Matt Moore, Yacine Greg, and Daniel Hill shot a blistering round of 53. Radio celebrity Bob Rose once again lent his name to this year's event, and our premier sponsors, SKY Radio 97.3 FM and Infotech led our 30 sponsors and vendors in supporting The Arc's biggest fundraiser of the year (see the sponsor banner below to see the names of our other generous benefactors).

Just a couple of points worth mentioning: no one shot a Hole-In-One at the tricky par 3 hole No. 8 (so no one went home with a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle), and the winning bid on the 'Wheelbarrow of Heaven' (chock full of top shelf liquor and bottles of award-winning wines) was $900 (won by Arc board member Stephen Tanner). Arc Board President Cathy Costello and Arc President/CEO Mark A. Swain spoke at the end of the evening's festivities, as did Arc client Adele Elchert who thanked our golfers while celebrating her birthday.


Gear Up Florida Wheels Into Gainesville & Spins The Arc Into A Frenzy

The annual Gear Up Florida/Ability Experience Friendship Visit & Bike Rally at The Arc of Alachua County took place on Wednesday, May 26th.

The event was a smash and featured Santa Fe College police escort, Rep. Chuck Clemons, Arc Board President Cathy Costello, Arc President/CEO Mark A. Swain, and the 25 passionate, caring bikers of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, who represented colleges and universities throughout the US.

Arc clients love this event, as do our employees. The bikers enjoyed food from Dos Mamas, music and dancing from Mr. October DJ, relaxing swim and gym time at the gorgeous Gainesville Health & Fitness Center, and enjoyed dinner and sleep time at Trinity United Methodist Church.

The Arc especially thanks Gear Up Florida's Josh Ingram and Andrew Matznick, and its long-time community partners who make the Gear Up Florida/Ability Experience Friendship Visit such a fantastic event each and every year. See you in 2022!



Arc Client Safety Enhanced As Arc Employees Trained on Active Assailant Protocol



Arc Leadership Team members, supervisor, directors and group home managers received Active Assailant Training from certified trainer Deputy Cary Gallop with the Alachua County Sheriff's Office (ACSO). The first half of the training was devoted to learning how to spot potential assailants and how to react to protect our clients. Going through the various possible responses available to our staff in an Active Assailant scenario, Deputy Gallop shared examples of how to respond in one of three different ways: "Run" - "Hide" - "Fight." Arc employees asked a series of tough, pointed questions regarding how best to protect our clients, many of whom are not ambulatory or are not able to "run" or "walk quickly" to exit the building or group home. Deputy Gallop was very familiar with institutions, buildings and homes like The Arc's, and was able to discuss how best to protect the safety of our vulnerable clients.


The second part of the training included a variety of Active Shooter scenarios, played out for Arc staff. Arc employees had the opportunity to respond to shooter scenarios using responses from passive to aggressive. The more passive responses included evacuation of the group home or building, running away from the assailant, barricading the clients in a safe office; to more aggressive techniques like grabbing at the nose or muzzle of the assailant's gun, throwing objects at the assailant to distract him, or having a crowd of folks try to jump him if all else fails. At the end of the training, all attendees were provided maps to their individually-assigned group home, department, building or campus. Each map included details of their location along with the locked, secured doors noted in red. These maps will be posted at all Arc sites/locations. Moreover, all clients and employees will conduct drills on Active Assailant procedures specific to each site from now on based on Dep. Gallop's Active Assailant training.


Together with help from Deputy Gallop and the ACSO, The Arc of Alachua County is making all of its locations, buildings, homes and campuses, safer places for clients, employees, families, friends, and visitors. The Arc's Leadership Team is committed to making The Arc a safe environment for everyone. The Arc will ensure that, if we are ever in need of deploying this training, we are ready to use it and use it effectively in a way that best safeguards the safety and well-being of our clients and employees.


LiveScan Is LIVE Again!



The Arc of Alachua County's digital fingerprinting, screening and photo capture service known as LiveScan is resuming services on a limited, appointment-only basis. Beginning on Wednesday, August 26th - and continuing each and every Wednesday following that date - The Arc's LiveScan service will resume our fingerprinting and screening services at The Arc's main campus (3303 NW 83rd St., across from Santa Fe College)..

To keep The Arc's main campus safe for LiveScan staff and customers amidst COVID-19, we are accepting appointments for this service on Wednesdays only. We do not allow walk-ins at this time.

We ask that LiveScan customers remain in their cars until their appointment time. At your appointment time, The Arc receptionist will then greet you at the front entrance, take your temperature, and escort you into the building. Guests that arrive with customers must remain in the vehicle and will not be allowed into the building. All customers must wear a mask to enter the building.

So if you need fingerprinting done quickly, locally, and reasonably, please call The Arc at 352-334-4060 ext. 106 to schedule an appointment.

For more information about The Arc's LiveScan service, click on the LEARN MORE button below.

Learn More »

Celebrating Ability... Creating Opportunity


Mission

The Arc of Alachua County is a community based organization committed to providing a continuum of exemplary services, supports, and advocacy to assure that people with developmental disabilities can enjoy respect and dignity and be full participants in the community.

Who Is The Arc?

The Arc of Alachua County is a community based organization committed to providing a continuum of exemplary services, supports, and advocacy to assure that people with developmental disabilities can enjoy respect and dignity and be full participants in the community.

Who Is The Arc

The Arc has a rich history spanning 60 years and marked by accomplishment. We continue to carry out the mission and vision of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as their parents and siblings.

Over the last 60 years, The Arc has grown and adapted to the changes that people with disabilities face across their life span. Through the decades, The Arc has seen several name changes, advocated for the passage of state and federal legislation on behalf of people with disabilities and established a broad network of state and local chapters that range from small voluntary groups to large, professional organizations.

Although much has changed for those that we serve, we always try to raise awareness, supporters, and always help improve the lives of the intellectually and developmentally disabled.

Take A Look At Us

I am sure it is no surprise to you, but people always want to know what we have been up to around The Arc and at our events. Our followers on facebook get to see quite a few or our pictures, but the rest of you are left in the dark.

Well even though everyone should be our fans on facebook, we still decided to put up a gallery of images to show some of the highlights from the major events we have had this year.

Every year we hold several events we consider picture worthy. But dont worry, you will probably see some other, "non event" pictures sneak in as well. If you have a good picture you would like to share, stop by The Arc and let us scan it and share it as well.

We hope to keep the new gallery up to date throughout the year, so check back and enjoy.

See Photo Gallery »

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