1004.55 Regional autism centers; public record exemptions.—
(1) Seven regional autism centers are established to provide nonresidential resource and training services for persons of all ages and of all levels of intellectual functioning who have autism, as defined in s. 393.063; who have a pervasive developmental disorder that is not otherwise specified; who have an autistic-like disability; who have a dual sensory impairment; or who have a sensory impairment with other handicapping conditions. Each center shall be operationally and fiscally independent and shall provide services within its geographical region of the state. Service delivery shall be consistent for all centers. Each center shall coordinate services within and between state and local agencies and school districts but may not duplicate services provided by those agencies or school districts. The respective locations and service areas of the centers are:
(a) The College of Medicine at Florida State University, which serves Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Taylor, Wakulla, Walton, and Washington Counties.
(b) The College of Medicine at the University of Florida, which serves Alachua, Bradford, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Lafayette, Levy, Marion, Putnam, Suwannee, and Union Counties.
(c) The University of Florida Health Science Center at Jacksonville, which serves Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, and St. Johns Counties.
(d) The Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute at the University of South Florida, which serves Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, and Sarasota Counties.
(e) The Mailman Center for Child Development and the Department of Psychology at the University of Miami, which serves Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties.
(f) The College of Health and Public Affairs at the University of Central Florida, which serves Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Sumter, and Volusia Counties.
(g) The Department of Exceptional Student Education at Florida Atlantic University, which serves Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee, and Indian River Counties.
(2) There is established for each center a constituency board, which shall work collaboratively with the center. Each board shall consist of no fewer than six members, each of whom is either an individual who has a disability that is described in subsection (1) or is a member of a family that includes a person who has such a disability, who are selected by each university president from a list that has been developed by the Autism Society of Florida and other relevant constituency groups that represent persons who have sensory impairments as described in subsection (1). As representatives of the center’s constituencies, these boards shall meet quarterly with the staff of each of the centers to provide advice on policies, priorities, and activities. Each board shall submit to the university president and to the Department of Education an annual report that evaluates the activities and accomplishments of its center during the year. The board for each center should raise funds equivalent to 2 percent of the total funds allocated to that center in each fiscal year.
(3) To promote statewide planning and coordination, a conference must be held annually for staff from each of the seven centers and representatives from each center’s constituency board. The purpose of the conference is to facilitate coordination, networking, cross-training, and feedback among the staffs and constituency boards of the centers.
(4) Each center shall provide:
(a) A staff that has expertise in autism and autistic-like behaviors and in sensory impairments.
(b) Individual and direct family assistance in the home, community, and school. A center’s assistance should not supplant other responsibilities of state and local agencies, and each school district is responsible for providing an appropriate education program for clients of a center who are school age.
(c) Technical assistance and consultation services, including specific intervention and assistance for a client of the center, the client’s family, and the school district, and any other services that are appropriate.
(d) Professional training programs that include developing, providing, and evaluating preservice and inservice training in state-of-the-art practices for personnel who work with the populations served by the centers and their families.
(e) Public education programs to increase awareness of the public about autism, autistic-related disabilities of communication and behavior, dual sensory impairments, and sensory impairments with other handicapping conditions.
(f) Coordination and dissemination of local and regional information regarding available resources for services for children with the developmental disabilities described in subsection (1).
(g) Support to state agencies in the development of training for early child care providers and educators with respect to the developmental disabilities described in subsection (1).
(5) The State Board of Education, in cooperation with the regional autism centers, shall adopt the necessary rules to carry out the purposes of this section.
(6)(a) Client records.—
1. All records that relate to a client of a regional autism center who receives the services of a center or participates in center activities, and all records that relate to the client’s family, are confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution.
2. A client who receives the services of a center, if competent, or the client’s parent or legal guardian if the client is incompetent, shall be provided with a copy of the client’s individual record upon request.
3. A regional autism center may release the confidential and exempt records as follows:
a. To physicians, attorneys, or governmental entities having need of the confidential and exempt information to aid a client, as authorized by the client, if competent, or the client’s parent or legal guardian if the client is incompetent.
b. In response to a subpoena or to persons authorized by order of court.
c. To the State Board of Education or the Board of Governors of the State University System when the director of the center deems it necessary for the treatment of the client, maintenance of adequate records, compilation of treatment data, or evaluation of programs.
4. Provided that personal identifying information of a client or the client’s family has been removed, a regional autism center may release information contained in the confidential and exempt records to a person engaged in bona fide research if that person agrees to sign a confidentiality agreement with the regional autism center, agrees to maintain the confidentiality of the information received, and, to the extent permitted by law and after the research has concluded, destroy any confidential information obtained.
5. The director of the center or his or her designee may release information for statistical and research purposes, provided that any confidential and exempt information is removed in the reporting of such statistical or research data.
(b) Donor information.—Personal identifying information of a donor or prospective donor to a regional autism center who desires to remain anonymous is confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution.
History.—s. 202, ch. 2002-387; s. 1, ch. 2005-49; s. 183, ch. 2008-4; s. 6, ch. 2008-204; s. 15, ch. 2009-59; s. 5, ch. 2010-224; s. 1, ch. 2011-221; s. 1, ch. 2016-217.