Q: As of the date of this interview (Feb. 11), session is about halfway through. What is happening?A: The Florida House will vote on the General Appropriations act soon, which is the beginning of the formal budget process. Budget highlights of the House plan include: investments in salaries for new and veteran teachers and other state employees including law enforcement and child protective workers; setting aside $1.7 billion for hurricane response and more than $650 million for Everglades restoration and water resources; and $3.7 billion in reserves. Some potential “wins” for St. Johns County in the House budget include $1 million for Ponte Vedra A1A intersection improvements, partial funding ($250,000) for EPIC to add inpatient substance abuse treatment beds for women, $500,000 to continue a specialized emergency shelter project for the ARC of St. Johns, $250,000 for painting and sealing the inside of the St. Augustine Lighthouse, and $100,000 funding for Flagler College storm hardening to protect historic resources.

Q: What is the focus this year for the House?
A: This speaker’s focus is access to affordable, quality care — to include more choices. Also important are enforcing the antitrust laws to foster competition, cut through red tape and improve the cost of medications, which cost between 30 percent and 190 percent more in the United States than other Western countries.  

Q: What bills are you sponsoring?
A: To follow up on last year’s ambulatory surgical center bill, which provided for a lower cost alternative to hospitals, this year I am sponsoring the recovery care portion. This gives people a place for extra recovery time in a lower cost setting than in a hospital.

Another bill would update statute to allow physical therapists to more fully practice.  

I’m also sponsoring the coordinated specialty care bill, aimed at youth aged 14 – 30 when they experience episodes of early psychosis. Research shows that early treatment leads to better outcomes. A person can get back to work or school sooner and they will understand how and where to get help if they need it again. This can change people’s lives since they hopefully will not end up in the emergency room, jail, or the victim of suicide. Studies show that a delay of anything more than six months in diagnosing and treating gives a lesser chance of a good outcome. In the United States, the average delay is one year.

Finally, I’m working on the state office of resiliency. This is not a big bureaucracy. This bill pulls together information we are already getting from all over the state so we have an understanding and can prioritize funding for projects. We are already spending money; this will be a roadmap to give a cohesive way to consider requests. 

Q: What is the best way for our readers to contact you?

A: Readers can email me at Cyndi.Stevenson@myfloridahouse.gov or call my local office at (904) 823-2300. Also use this contact information if you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, which I send out about 10 times per year.

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