Posts Tagged ‘Duval County’

ACLU, Christian group oppose Florida school prayer bill

Posted on: February 15th, 2012 by The American Independent No Comments

A bill that would allow K-12 students to pray during all school events is currently being opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Liberty Counsel. Both groups warn that such legislation would cost the state money in litigation. (more…)

Florida prisons update shackling policies for pregnant women

Posted on: February 8th, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment

The Florida Sheriffs Association has announced that during a recent meeting, a group of sheriffs voted to adopt a policy for the restraint of incarcerated pregnant women with language very similar to a bill now making its way through the Legislature. (more…)

Florida teen pregnancy task force: Abstinence-only sex education not enough

Posted on: December 20th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments
Last month, the Northeast Florida Teen Pregnancy Task Force released a report outlining recommendations for dealing with the region’s persistent teen pregnancy problem.

(more…)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott cuts $2million from at-risk women and children program

Posted on: May 31st, 2011 by The American Independent 2 Comments

Last week, Gov. Rick Scott cut close to $2 million in health services for at-risk women and children in line-item vetoes to the state budget. Among the projects cut was $200,000 for a pilot program to be carried out by the Healthy Start Coalition of Orange County that would have provided specialized care for high-risk first-time mothers throughout the county. #


Healthy Start Coalitions in Florida were created in 1991 by Gov. Lawton Chiles in an effort “to build local coalitions to reduce Florida’s alarmingly high infant mortality rate” at the time. The coalitions focus on making sure that “at- risk mothers receive the care they need for a healthy pregnancy and baby.” #


The Orange County pilot program would have started a “nurse-family partnership.” These partnerships provide at-home visits from nurses for at-risk mothers. The nurses would provide care for both the mother and child, as well as educate new mothers. #


The executive director of the Orange County Healthy Start Coalition, Linda Sutherland, says the program would have been a big help to the community. She was also hopeful that the program would have been used as a model for the rest of the state. #


She says the funding cut is a big loss for women in the county. #


“This means that several hundred women will not get the services they need,” she says. #


Sutherland says that Palm Beach County and Duval County received money for similar programs. Yet both Orange County and Gadsden lost money for their nurse-family partnerships. #


Gadsden lost $500,000 for its nurse-family partnership, bringing the tally of cuts to women’s and children’s health services in line-item vetoes to almost $2 million. #


In controversial robo-calls heard throughout the state, Scott’s voice is featured calling these projects “special interest waste.#


Sutherland says cutting these projects is actually a “double-whammy” to women seeking health services in the state. All Healthy Start Coalitions in the state of Florida had already received a 15 percent across-the-board cut in the state’s budget. #


As mentioned previously, crisis pregnancy centers were not among the programs cut in line-item vetoes. Sutherland says this is because legislators in Florida “philosophically agree with the mission of CPCs.” She says that cutting funding for Healthy Start yet retaining crisis pregnancy center services is an “oxymoron.” #


Because Healthy Start Coalitions service at-risk mothers, they receive a lot of referrals from crisis pregnancy centers in Florida. These pregnancy centers aim to dissuade women from receiving abortions (and they have been found to use medically inaccurate information to do so). Once a crisis pregnancy center convinces at-risk women to keep their pregnancy, they can only receive care from a place such as Healthy Start. #


Family planning and aid for women that would reduce unintended pregnancies in the state were also slashed in this year’s budget. #

Fla. Medicaid overhaul could run into conflicts with federal law

Posted on: May 20th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

According to The News Service of Florida, Florida health officials have “less than three months” to develop a detailed Medicaid-overhaul plan to sell to the Obama administration. But whether or not the federal government will give Florida a go-ahead with its proposed overhaul is unclear, due to certain provisions that “conflict with basic federal laws.” Among these conflicts is a provision that allows Medicaid providers to opt-out of providing family planning services on “moral or religious grounds.” #


The Medicaid reform bill recently passed by state legislators is only an outline of what will be proposed to the feds. Currently, agencies such as the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) are developing concrete proposals to show the federal government. Whether or not AHCA will fix some of these conflicts is unknown. #


Among the proposals AHCA must propose is one that would allow Medicaid provider service networks to opt-out of providing family planning services such as birth control, a provision added at the request of Catholic Services. The Catholic church is looking to join the provider network, but does not want to provide family planning mandated by the federal government because it goes against their religious beliefs. #


Stephanie Kunkel, a spokeswoman for the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, tells the Florida Independent that no other state in the country allows Medicaid providers to completely opt-out of providing a federally mandated service like family planning. #


“That’s unprecedented,” she said. #


AHCA has until August 1 to submit proposals. Public meetings to discuss the proposals are scheduled in Tallahassee, Duval County, Broward County, Nassau County, Clay County and Baker County starting May 21 and ending mid-June. #

Jacksonville sheriff not backing down from support for abstitence education group

Posted on: March 18th, 2011 by The American Independent 1 Comment

Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, currently running for reelection, has yet to back down from an endorsement of the city’s controversial abstinence education group Project SOS. #


Project SOS has faced scrutiny in recent weeks. The group’s founder, Pam Mullarkey, has questionable ties to Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, a vocal advocate for that country’s 2009 “Anti Homosexuality Bill” (.pdf), nicknamed the “Kill the Gays” bill. #


The federally funded group, which promotes abstinence in both public and private schools, has also been criticized for disseminating false information about HIV and AIDS. #


Its “Go APE (Abstinence Protects Everyone)” curriculum was deemed “unacceptable” (.pdf) in overall content by the American School Health Association and was mentioned in a Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States report for teaching misinformation about HIV and AIDS. #


The group is well known along the First Coast, where several prominent elected officials have endorsed its work. One such official is Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, who is currently running for reelection. #


Project SOS’ website cites a shining endorsement from Rutherford: #

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is greatly appreciative of Project SOS in strengthening our youth and educating our parents. We applaud their statistics and success as well as their dedicated service to our community. Project SOS helps raise young boys and girls to become non-violent young men and women. #

It is unclear whether Rutherford still supports Project SOS in light of the new information that has surfaced about the organization. As of press time, calls made to both his campaign office and to the public affairs department of the Sheriff’s Office went unreturned. #


Duval County elections will be held Tues., March 22. Rutherford is currently being challenged by former Public Information Officer Ken Jefferson, accountant Soren Brockdorf and write-in candidate Curtis Southerland. #

New legislation could redirect revenue from ‘Choose Life’ plates — but where does it go now?

Posted on: January 11th, 2011 by Melissa 2 Comments

New legislation could affect where revenue from Florida’s “Choose Life” license plates ends up — moving it out of the hands of counties, who then distribute it to adoption organizations, and into the hands of Choose Life, Inc., which would distribute some of the money to various pregnancy centers, and keep the rest for publicity and upkeep.

But finding out where the money currently ends up is no easy feat.

Under the system now in place, revenues are funneled through the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and into Florida’s counties. Each county receives money proportional to how many of it residents spend the extra cash to purchase the state’s bright yellow “Choose Life” specialty plate.

According to state law, each county must then distribute the funds to “nongovernmental, not-for-profit agencies within the county, which agencies’ services are limited to counseling and meeting the physical needs of pregnant women who are committed to placing their children for adoption.” Funds cannot go to “any agency that is involved or associated with abortion activities.”

From July 2009 to June 2010, the net state revenue collected from new registrations and renewals of Florida’s “Choose Life” plates totaled $649,640. Some of the highest-grossing counties for the plates were Duval, Marion and Collier counties; revenues from each county amounted to over $20,000.

In Alachua County, where the plate purchases totaled $10,400, revenues are sent to Catholic Charities of Gainseville.

“At least 70 percent has to be used directly on women making adoption plans on anything from rent to clothing to utilities … anything they need to maintain a healthy pregnancy and be safe,” says Geralyn Ryan, the group’ director of adoptions. “The other 30 percent can be used on advertising for adoptions or on counseling. It cannot be used at all for administrative [purposes]. We pretty much use almost 100 percent towards women’s material needs: rent, utilities, medical, doctors, foster care, all different things.”

Catholic Charities in Gainseville works in 17 counties, but the money it receives from the plates is only used in two. According to Ryan, this is because the law itself stipulates that the money “has to stay in the county where the tag was purchased.”

Ryan says that some Florida counties give the money directly to charities but that others ask organizations to submit receipts to the county for reimbursements. In addition to funding its own work, Catholic Charities of Gainseville doles out smaller reimbursements to other like-minded groups in the area.

“There are a couple other groups that work on the front end of the pregnancy — Arbor House and Women’s Resource Center. They basically counsel women who haven’t decided if they are interested in adoption yet,” Ryan says. “In the past, we’ve also given reimbursements to Florida Baptist Children’s Home and Christian Family Services. Basically, those groups give us the bills and we decide if it meets the requirements of the law. And then we give all of the receipts back to the county, who then reimburse us.”

Duval County, which earned $43,560 from the plates, sends its revenues to Catholic Charities, and the Orlando offices of Catholic Charities also receive revenue from the plates.

Finding out where the funds ultimately land once they go through other counties proved difficult.

When The Florida Independent contacted the Marion County Tax Collector’s office asking for information on how it disburses its funds, a clerk could only suggest that we consult the original legislation.

In Marion County last year, “Choose Life” plate sales brought in $30,780 — not surprising considering Choose Life, Inc. is based in Ocala.

As unclear as the money flow may be, under the current law, the “Choose Life” money is required to end up with agencies that promote adoptions. But a new piece of legislation — Senate Bill 196 (.pdf) — sponsored by state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, could drastically affect that.

As the law now reads, at least 70 percent of the revenue in each county must be used to provide for the physical needs of pregnant women, while the other 30 percent can be used on counseling services and other programs.

Fasano’s legislation would rewrite the law, doing away with the 70-30 split and putting all of the funds in the hands of Choose Life, Inc., which would then distribute some of the money and use the rest for promotional purposes. Some have argued that a changed law could mean that money ends up in the hands of controversial crisis pregnancy centers, which have been found to promote misleading information about abortion and birth control.

Though she says she doesn’t fully grasp all the potential effects of changed legislation, Ryan says that she does have an issue with the current rules:

There are small counties where the money just sits there. I’m curious to know how the money from our state’s 67 counties eventually gets used. I know where the money in Alachua goes, but what about these smaller towns in Florida? What if you want to support adoption so you buy a “Choose Life” tag, but your county might not even be doing anything with the money. In that case, what’s the point of even buying a tag?

Ryan says that, even if Florida’s law changes, she believes her organization will still receive revenue from the tags. How much revenue is another question.

“You know, I’d hate to see a big city like Miami get a lot more and we get less,” she says. “I just hope that the money would still be distributed fairly.”