[tabi] Fw: [fcb-l] tampa bay times article on DBS

  • From: "Easy Talk" <Easytalk@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2013 21:06:03 -0400

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From: Easy Talk 
To: fcb-l@xxxxxxx 
Sent: Friday, June 21, 2013 9:02 PM
Subject: [fcb-l] tampa bay times article on DBS

Florida agency for the blind hires new director, strengthens rules for bidding 
Brittany Alana Davis Brittany Alana Davis, Times Staff Writer
Friday, June 21, 2013 4:02pm

The state's Division of Blind Services has hired a new director and installed 
rules for bidding out contracts, pushing back on nonprofit groups that 
could charge taxpayers $2,000 for a phone call and $58 per hour to drive to a 
person's house.
The changes virtually eliminate the free reign by groups that get state dollars 
serve blind people, banning them from contacting Blind Services staff about 
and revising rules to prevent the state from getting overcharged.
Now anybody can bid for the opportunity to provide services, and an impartial 
specialist will decide who offers the best services for the lowest cost. 
only Lighthouse for the Blind groups and a few other vendors had access to 
Blind Services contracts, and critics say the groups named their own price.
"Change is always hard, especially when there's money involved," said Joe 
spokesman for the Department of Education, which oversees Blind Services. "But 
this new process, people will know more about where taxpayer dollars are being 
and they'll know that they're getting the best deal."
The Division of Blind Services' mission is to help blind Floridians manage their
disability from infancy to old age. Operating on a $52 million budget, the 
pays vendors to train blind people for everyday tasks from using a cane to 
water without spilling.
In November, the Tampa Bay Times
 reported that director Joyce Hildreth, a veteran employee from Lighthouse 
Florida, oversaw the allocation of millions in taxpayer dollars to her former 
and other groups.
Critics called the contracts wasteful and exorbitant, and state documents showed
the organizations received little oversight.
Gov. Rick Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater called the situation 
Hildreth was fired.
Robert Doyle takes over as director in mid July. He currently leads the blind 
program in Delaware and is not affiliated with any groups that receive money 
Florida for services.
"I want to come there and be objective and make sure we have contracts in place 
are reasonable," Doyle said Thursday, adding that the Governor's Office warned 
about the division's troubles during the interview process. "We're going to do 
possible to make our services as efficient as possible."
Elly du Pre, president of the Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind,
the trade group for the vendors, said the changes make everyone uneasy, but the 
are trying to abide by the new rules.
"Writing a (bid application), especially if you've never done it before, is kind
of overwhelming, really. But the whole state does it, not just us," she said. 
a strong group, and we'll have to go through it because that's what the governor
wants. So we're doing it."
Mary Ellen Ottman, a former Blind Services employee, said she thinks blind 
receive fewer services than they should for the amount of money the state 
She hopes the changes will result in better job training for blind people, a 
variety of rehabilitation opportunities and more access to equipment, among 
She quit in September after trying to raise red flags for state officials.
"The private agencies are not going to be able to get their way anymore," she 
"They've lost the battle, and to that I say, 'Yahoo!' "
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Contact Brittany Alana
Davis at bdavis@xxxxxxxxxxxx or 850-323-0353.
Florida agency for the blind hires new director, strengthens rules for bidding 
06/21/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 21, 2013 6:20pm]
© 2013 Tampa Bay Times


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