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Disabled worry they won't fit at Elder Affairs

Advocates for the disabled on Tuesday questioned a plan that would put programs for the disabled under the supervision of an expanded state Department of Elder Affairs.

"Give us some time to come up with a reasonable approach," said G. Linden Thorn, legislative liaison for the Florida Developmental Disabilities Planning Council. "There might be alternatives for us."

His comments came during the final day of a state House and Senate workshop on a proposal to shift the remaining aging programs in the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services to Elder Affairs. The Legislature is scheduled to consider the plan next year.

But several of the HRS programs serve not only the elderly, but also some young and middle-aged people with disabilities. Thorn and others say they are worried the rights of the disabled could get overwhelmed in a department like Elder Affairs, which is devoted to representing people over 60.

The caution about disability programs was one of the few open disputes during the two-day meeting. Otherwise, an unusually wide group of social services groups, government officials and advocates for the elderly supported for the first time the plan to transfer the remaining HRS programs.

House and Senate staff members said Tuesday they plan to work with groups representing disabled people. A survey of aging and disabled workers and groups is planned for this summer, and a public hearing is scheduled for September.

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