Elder Affairs Celebrates Record Funding and Enhanced Support for Florida’s Aging Network in 2022

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Michelle Branham is excited to highlight the Department’s achievements under her first year of leadership, promoting Governor and First Lady DeSantis’ bold vision and commitment to strengthening Florida’s aging network. The Governor and First Lady have served as the driving force behind the Department’s 2022 successes in serving Florida’s seniors, their families and caregivers.

“This year not only marked our 30th anniversary as an agency, but also my first full year as Secretary at the Department,” said Secretary Michelle Branham. “It has been a privilege to lead this agency that serves such a large and important constituency in Florida. The Governor and First Lady have empowered us to find new ways of doing business, such as rolling out innovative, next-generation programs like our Alzheimer’s Center of Excellence and tapping into the hearts of Floridians wanting to serve in the First Lady’s Hope Heroes volunteer initiative. This year has been an incredibly special and momentous time to be part of Elder Affairs.”

Key Year-to-Date Successes Include:

Leading the Nation in Services and Support for Alzheimer’s Disease

Governor DeSantis’ 2022-23 Freedom First Budget included a record $52.3 million in funding for the Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative (ADI) Program, which provides case management, respite care, and caregiver support services. Since taking office in 2019, the Governor has increased ADI funding by nearly 94 percent, opening doors for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients with new innovative technology and readily available resources.

In June of 2022, Governor DeSantis announced the launch of the Florida Alzheimer’s Center of Excellence (FACE), the first in the nation to be spearheaded by a state agency. The Center supports caregivers and people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias in the community through evidence-based and no-wrong-door strategies. It also includes innovative partnerships, including one between INSIGHTEC and a consortium of Florida universities that identify patients for the Blood-Brain Barrier clinical trials. This unwavering pursuit of cutting-edge treatment and resources for Alzheimer’s disease is lending Florida a new nickname – “The Brain State.”

With the launch of FACE, Governor DeSantis’ Five Point Dementia Action Plan, which he laid out in 2019, was completed. The full plan included record funding for Alzheimer’s care, expansion of Dementia Care and Cure Initiative task forces, and prioritization of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias on the State Health Improvement Plan.

 

Expanding Community Care Services for the Elderly

Governor DeSantis’ Freedom First Budget secured a $9 million increase in funding for the Community Care for the Elderly (CCE) program. This program serves individuals ages 60 and older through community-based services to help functionally impaired elders live in the least-restrictive and most cost-effective environment suitable to their needs. The CCE program helps to ensure seniors can maintain independence and age in the place of their choosing.

 

Providing a Pathway to Purpose through Hope Florida

In August of 2022, Secretary Branham and First Lady Casey DeSantis announced the expansion of her Hope Florida initiative to include the Department of Elder Affairs. Hope Florida – A Pathway to Purpose brings together government, private, nonprofit, and faith-based organizations to support seniors in need of assistance with the goal of helping the individual to age in the place of their choosing.

The First Lady also launched Hope Heroes, a volunteer program to connect community citizens with seniors in need of assistance. The program was pivotal in mobilizing volunteers to support older victims of Hurricane Ian, providing hands-on support in shelters, delivering meals, repairing homes, cleaning up yard debris, providing telephone assessments, and much more in Southwest and Central Florida.

After learning of the impact made by the Hope Heroes initiative following Hurricane Ian, the WellMed Charitable Foundation contributed $400,000 to grow and support the program. The donation was made to Advantage Aging Solutions, the Area Agency on Aging of North Florida, to build on the strong foundation of volunteerism started by the program and to provide direct support for seniors to get back on their feet after Hurricane Ian.

 

Piloting New Technologies to Enhance Care Following Hurricane Ian

In response to Hurricane Ian, the Department worked with public, private, and non-profit partners to pilot a program in Osceola County to provide services that promote resiliency. The program took initiatives to decrease emergency room visits, falls and other adverse health events, and stress while increasing overall health and wellness. The initiative provided displaced seniors with nutritious food, transportation, shelter, and access to quality health care. The initiative has provided over 3,700 coordinated administrative program hours, 7,000 medical health care hours, 8,000 meals, and 7,000 case worker hours, and the effort has resulted in an increase in positive health outcomes for the residents who were displaced in the Central Florida region.

 

Celebrating 30 Years of DOEA by Preparing to Serve Future Generations

Secretary Branham spent 2022 visiting each Planning and Service Area across the state to garner valuable feedback, identify service needs, and implement positive changes to support Florida’s aging network. Through these valuable meetings in partnership with the strategic planning of an internal task force, the Department created an improved rate structure and service matrix, allowing each contracted provider to be more responsive and agile in serving the needs of seniors in their area, posturing them for success in serving future generations.

The Secretary has challenged Florida’s 11 Area Agencies on Aging, the Department’s primary partners in the aging network, to make next-generation technology and cost-saving, innovative solutions a priority area in 2023. As one collaborative aging network, the Department and these partners have further strengthened the critical collaboration and innovation needed to launch the aging network into the next 30 years.