Advocates are not accepting explanations Florida legislators are giving for their rejection of federal grant money for a program aimed at curbing child abuse and neglect.

Florida policymakers have recently received scrutiny for rejecting home vising grants from the Affordable Care Act. The grants would have gone to Healthy Families Florida and Healthy Start. Both organizations provide home visiting services to at-risk families.

Among the list of reasons legislators rejected the money is a fear that “by taking the federal funds, it would be duplicating services already in place with added administrative requirements and costs,” according to Katie Betta, communications director for Speaker of the House Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park.

State Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, the chairman of the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, echoed that sentiment in an interview with The Florida Independent. Hudson said there are already home visiting programs in the state, adding that if the state accepts the federal grants, it runs the risk of “duplicating services.”

Judi Vitucci, president of the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions, says that “is so untrue.”

Florida’s Healthy Start Coalitions lost $5.2 million dollars in state funding this year, which “could result in 14,468 fewer clients served” or “252,573 fewer services provided” to at-risk families.

According to Vitucci, the organization is already operating with significantly less resources and is being forced to prioritize where to focus its attention. She says that leaves many at-risk communities without help.

“For example,” she says, “there is currently no program for mothers who are suffering from substance abuse. We just don’t have the resources.” She says the federal grant money could have begun helping those mothers.

“It is just sad,” Vitucci says.

The New York Times also reported that “health care advocates scoff at the assertion by Mr. Scott and the Legislature that some of the rejected grants would duplicate existing state programs.”

Vitucci says there will be many negative long-term effects from the state’s actions. She says that mothers and children will ultimately suffer the most. ”There is plenty of need out there,” she says, “and Healthy Start is funded to help those mothers.”

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