The Department of Children and Families is under fire again, accused of slashing millions of dollars in payments to day cares and group homes for Florida’s most severely disabled citizens.
Les Leech runs one of five companies suing DCF for not honoring its contracts. Leech says it’s not about the money, it’s about people potentially dying when their care providers are forced out of business.
Les Leech says, "To keep those people stable, to keep the services rolling, to keep the right interventions, to keep the therapies, to keep the nursing services is essential to their survival, and that’s what we worry about."
Hundreds of people with disabilities protested last year when DCF accused the care providers of over billing. DCF then slashed its reimbursement rate. An internal audit showed DCF’s lack of organization was the problem, not the care providers, but Gov. Jeb Bush still defends the agency.
"We’ve doubled the amount of money going to the developmentally disabled in five years, so without knowing the details of the lawsuit, I can tell you I support the department and the new agencies’ efforts to focus on consumer-directed care, getting people off the waiting list,” says Bush.
Providers say the state might be putting more money into DCF, but it’s not being spent on people with disabilities. Plus, providers say they’ve got three times as many people who need services now.
DCF Secretary Jerry Regier is already on the hot seat for millions of dollars in sweetheart contracts awarded to friends. Now, people who care for the state’s most vulnerable citizens wonder if that’s where their money went.
"It’s clear that the money that’s been wasted that we’ve been reading about had to come from somewhere."
At least 26 group homes have closed their doors since the cuts took effect last fall.