Orange County Government, Florida

ORANGE COUNTY PRIORITIZES HOMELESSNESS SOLUTIONS

Throughout the year, Orange County has remained focused on serving our children and families in need.

On Veterans Day, Mayor Teresa Jacobs joined Florida Hospital at its announcement of the largest, one-time private donation to impact chronic homelessness in Central Florida history — a momentous commitment that will change the way this unique population is cared for and supported in years to come. Lars Houmann, CEO and president of Florida Hospital, announced that Florida Hospital would generously commit $6 million over three years to address homelessness in the region.

In follow up to the announcement, and as part of Orange County’s overall strategy to help those with housing needs, in December, Mayor Jacobs led a work session regarding Orange County’s plan to impact homelessness at a Board of County Commissioners meeting. Orange County Government currently allocates nearly $5 million annually of general revenue funds to impact homelessness and crisis needs, and receives additional federal and state dollars. At the work session, Mayor Jacobs proposed an additional $2 million in annual funding for homeless housing, prevention and related family programs.

In addition to a proposed expansion of funding, Mayor Jacobs announced plans for an integrated community focus on this critical issue. Working with the Central Florida Regional Commission for Homelessness (CFCH), Mayor Jacobs has asked Dick Batchelor to lead a new committee focused on children and families who are homeless. Batchelor is the founder and president of Dick Batchelor Management Group, Inc., a longtime Central Florida resident and a former member of the Florida Legislature who is known internationally for his commitment to human rights, and renowned here at home for his tireless advocacy on behalf of children, families, domestic violence victims, our schools and more.

In October, the CFCH co-chaired by Mayor Jacobs and Mayor Buddy Dyer, along with a delegation of 72 elected officials, business and community leaders from across the region went on a tour of Houston, Texas, to learn about the Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) system of care that has been developed in there to address chronic homelessness. City of Houston officials and New Hope Housing, an organization that offers permanent supportive housing for individuals who live alone and have low income, shared their region's long-term solutions with the Central Florida delegation. Houston has significantly reduced its homeless population and has established itself as a model community in providing life-stabilization options for the homeless and low-income families.

In November, Orange County and Goodwill Industries of Central Florida announced the launch of GoodSource Staffing Services — a temporary staffing and job-placement program that will assist individuals who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of being homeless. They hope to place 250 individuals in jobs within year one.

Throughout Central Florida and the region, communities are focused on addressing the issues that result in homelessness, and working to impact the lives of at-risk children, families, veterans and the chronically homeless. Through Orange County’s collaboration, hard work and strategic focus on this complex issue, we are changing the face and future of Central Florida for those who are most in need.

CELEBRATING AND EXPANDING CULTURAL DIVERSITY

Celebrating the region’s cultural diversity and heritage throughout the year is long-standing tradition for Mayor Jacobs and the Board of County Commissioners (BCC). To honor the County’s rich African-American culture, Mayor Jacobs joined residents and County employees in January and February for several inspiring Black History Month community events and parades to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his powerful message of equal rights and dignity for all.

Mayor Jacobs spoke at the Annual “Pappy” Kennedy Prayer Breakfast, which honors Orlando’s first African-American elected official, and at Eatonville’s Zora! Festival, the 25th celebration of the life and work of writer, folklorist, and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston. Mayor Jacobs also spoke at Orange County’s Annual Black History Month Celebration Luncheon. Coordinated by the Black History Committee of Orange County, the event took place on the lawn of Orange County’s Administration Center. Mayor Jacobs and the BCC proudly presented the committee with a proclamation in observance of Black History Month.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964, numerous community events were held. Mayor Jacobs and the Orange County Regional History Center hosted a ceremony as a public remembrance of the Act’s expanded civil rights protections at the Orange County Regional History Center. To commemorate the event, a three-panel mural honoring the Civil Rights movement was created by the students and faculty of Full Sail University, and donated to the History Center. In addition, a portrait of the revered Rosa Parks was presented by Curtis Dean, the grandson of Mrs. Parks, to Orange County as part of its ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary milestone. Personal testimonies were offered by several Freedom Fighters, including Kran Riley, Orange County NAACP president, who took part in the “March on Washington,” and Curtis Dean. Members of the Orange County Civil Rights Committee joined local elected officials and Full Sail University President Garry Jones in unveiling the commemorative mural.

RECOGNIZING HISPANIC CULTURE
AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Orange County’s vibrant Hispanic community continues to grow and thrive with wonderful event opportunities for the community to enjoy. Citizens from Azalea Park led the effort to restore the Roberto Clemente mural at the historic Azalea Park Little League when it was painted over by vandals. Two New York artists designed a new mural to honor the baseball legend known for his service to others.

Community leaders and entrepreneurs joined Mayor Jacobs to discuss business and commerce within the Puerto Rican community with the goal of advancing tourism and trade at the fifth annual Summit on Puerto Rican Affairs in May. Mayor Jacobs talked about business growth and job creation in the Central Florida region, home to more than 300,000 Puerto Ricans. The two-day event is held annually to promote economic, social, cultural and commercial ties between Central Florida and Puerto Rico. Mayor Jacobs also joined the Puerto Rican Parade and Festival in March.

In June, more than 200 local businesses and approximately 12,000 attendees participated in the 21st Annual Hispanic Business Conference and Consumer Expo. Mayor Jacobs provided the opening remarks at the Business Conference and cut the ribbon officially opening the Expo with Diana Bolivar, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando, and other regional and state elected officials.

September saw a month-long celebration of Hispanic Heritage, including the County’s annual kick-off celebration of music and exhibits showcasing talented Hispanic artists from Orange County coordinated by the Hispanic Heritage Committee of Greater Orange County.

Later in the month, the HHCGOC held its signature event, Orange Fiesta in the Park, which featured the accomplishments of the U.S. Army’s 65th Infantry Regiment, also known as the “Borinqueneers,” a unit that was comprised of primarily Puerto Rican soldiers. Mayor Jacobs honored the veterans with a proclamation that named Sept. 27, 2014, as 65th Infantry Regiment Borinqueneers Day.

During the event held at Downey Park, awards were given to the winners of the Hispanic Heritage Poster Contest from Orange County Public Schools. Orange County also celebrated Latino culture during the Florida Hispanic Parade & Festival that proceeded along East Robinson Street in the Milk District in late September.

CELEBRATING THE ASIAN
PACIFIC COMMUNITY

For the second year, Orange County recognized Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and Mayor Jacobs provided the keynote speech at a ceremony to honor the vital achievements and contributions of Asian Americans in the community. Mayor Jacobs also welcomed the Year of the Horse at the Dragon Parade and Lunar Year Festival with the Orange County Asian Committee. The committee continues to form partnerships throughout the community and build relationships with local and international governments.

In May, Mayor Jacobs was honored to deliver a proclamation at Buddha’s Birthday Celebration at Guang Ming Temple, the largest Chinese Buddhist temple in Florida. She encouraged all citizens to share in its observance by embracing the ideals of kindness, compassion and wisdom. Later in August, the Mayor took part in a ceremonial tea ritual at the temple with the Venerable Chueh Fan, who has provided the invocation at several BCC meetings.

BACK TO NATURE WILDLIFE RESCUE AND EDUCATION CENTER

A permanent new home for injured and orphaned wildlife needing rehabilitation opened this year at Eagles Roost, an Orange County Green PLACE property near Lake Nona. Mayor Jacobs cut the ribbon at the event with District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Thompson and more than 1,000 citizens who were there to enjoy hiking, wildlife classes, face painting and a tree give away by the Orange County Cooperative Extension. The Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge and Education Center is situated on 20 acres of land leased for a nominal fee from Eagles Roost, a 232-acre conservation property protected through the Orange County public lands acquisition and management program Green PLACE, an Orange County public land acquisition and management program. In return, Back to Nature hosts an education center where citizens can view and learn about wildlife.

The Back to Nature Wildlife Rescue is located off Narcoossee Road (adjacent to Split Oak Preserve), at the end of Clapp Simms Duda Road, and offers exciting tours and wildlife viewing. For more information, visit Back to Nature’s website.

COMBATTING HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Earlier in the year, Mayor Jacobs joined thousands of citizens and more than 80 organizations at the annual Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Awareness event held annually at Lake Eola. Orange County is committed to working with agency partners to create an integrated approach to finding and freeing those trapped in a life of modern-day slavery. To address the issue of human trafficking and find solutions, Orange County is connecting with community partners including the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force, nonprofits, social services groups, churches and law enforcement.

PRESCRIPTION DRUG
ABUSE SUMMIT

Orange County is incredibly fortunate to have the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies – the largest neonatal intensive-care unit in the world –at its doorstep. To help infants born with addiction issues (Orange County currently ranks third in the state in the reported number of babies withdrawing from drugs), Mayor Jacobs recognized the opportunity to bring together Winnie Palmer experts with law enforcement, public policy, pharmacy leaders and treatment providers for the first Orange County Prescription Drug Abuse Summit. The summit focused on Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, and showcased Winnie Palmer Hospital as the national leader in treating infants born with addiction issues. We were so proud to welcome Florida’s Surgeon General and Secretary of Health, John Armstrong, to Orange County for this vitally important gathering.

The summit was part of the continuing work of the Prescription Drug Task Force created by Mayor Jacobs in 2011 to evaluate and assess the region’s prescription drug problem, to determine the need for substantive regulations for pain management clinics, and to provide viable solutions to reduce the misuse and non-medical use of prescription drugs in Orange County.

ORANGE COUNTY DOMESTIC
VIOLENCE COMMISSION
ACHIEVEMENTS

As a result of several tragic cases occurring over the last several years in Orange County, Mayor Jacobs and the late Lydia Gardner, Clerk of the Courts of Orange County, reconvened the Domestic Violence Commission (DVC) in February 2013, co-chaired by the Honorable Alice Blackwell, Circuit Judge with the Ninth Judicial Circuit, and Dick Batchelor, President of Dick Batchelor Management Group, Inc. The Orange County Domestic Violence Commission made continued progress in seeking to protect vulnerable children and families in Orange County. After receiving input from a wide range of community leaders and stakeholders, the Commission prioritized and released its recommendations in late 2013. During 2014, the Commission continued to implement those and other recommendations to prevent and reduce incidents of partner violence. Additionally, the County continues to work closely with Harbor House of Central Florida, a nonprofit domestic violence program, and the only state-certified shelter in Orange County. Some of the strategies included:

  • The Orange County Clerk of Courts has allowed Harbor House employees to serve as special deputy clerks to process affidavits of violations filed by survivors in injunction cases.
  • The State Attorney has designated an attorney to be a liaison for domestic violence survivors in connection with civil and criminal domestic, dating violence and stalking cases.
  • Harbor House and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) have completed training with local law enforcement and state attorneys on collection of evidence including photographing injuries. The development of training for 911 operators is in progress.
  • The University of Central Florida, through its Department of Public and Allied Health, has undertaken a comprehensive review of all of the State Attorney’s records to determine a strategy for moving forward with cases involving intimate partner violence.
  • Early Victim Engagement Advocates will assist victims at the earliest possible stage.
  • Harbor House received an Orange County Safety Grant to address language barriers to survivors of domestic violence and has hired a full-time advocate to do outreach into the Haitian community.
  • Harbor House, Orange County Public Schools, Healthy Start, Orlando Police Department, the City of Orlando, Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence have jointly applied for a $1 million, three-year grant to engage the Hispanic community and address the needs of children in our community who witness domestic violence.
  • Florida A & M College of Law has created an internship for law students in injunction court at the Orange County Courthouse.

Most important, Orange County is nationally recognized for its outstanding cross-disciplinary efforts to protect those who are most vulnerable. Community partners continue to be actively engaged in resolving systemic issues in a productive, collaborative way.

YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH
COMMISSION BEGINS
IMPLEMENTATION WORK

A comprehensive look at the mental health issues facing Orange County children will result in improvements to systems serving this vulnerable population. Mayor Jacobs first created the 20-member Youth Mental Health Commission in 2013 to extensively analyze how needs are met in the Central Florida community and what can be done to help children, youth and their families with mental-health issues. The commission examined the resources, gaps, accessibility and outcomes associated with the issue and put together the Youth Mental Health Commission Implementation Team in October.

Building on the recommendations of the Youth Mental Health Commission, the Implementation Team will make sure that parents know how and where to get help, and that Orange County's system of care improves to properly and adequately address children’s mental-health issues. The region must break down the stigma associated with seeking mental-health care and keep this issue at the forefront of the community.

The Implementation Team has begun putting together a plan, both short and long-term, prioritizing the recommendations of the Youth Mental Health Commission and creating a way to implement them in the community.

Following the Implementation Team meeting, Mayor Jacobs hosted Minnesota’s Sen. Barb Goodwin and Hennepin County 4th Judicial District Judge Jay Quam for a learning and listening tour of the newly re-named Belvin Perry, Jr. Central Receiving Center (CRC), with the goal of providing Minnesota officials with an overview of the CRC’s best practices in caring for our citizens with emotional, behavioral, mental health and substance abuse challenges.

The facility provides necessary resources and care for patients suffering a mental-health or substance-abuse crisis, while providing intensive case management for those who have been diagnosed with mental illness and substance-abuse disorders.

Mayor Jacobs was also honored by the Federation of Families of Central Florida with the inaugural “Champion of Children's Mental Health” award. Presented during the organization’s 2nd Annual Black Tie Gala, the organization honored five community champions who advocate and support children’s mental health across our community.

NEW SEGMENT OF LAKE
APOPKA LOOP TRAIL OPENS

In addition to healthy finances, Orange County is committed to fostering healthy lifestyles, including abundant recreation amenities. As part of our 2014 efforts, a new, 6.3-mile section of trail for hiking and bicycling in the Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area opened last February. Phase 2 of the Lake Apopka Loop Trail is ideal for viewing hundreds of species of wildlife, and connects 4 miles of trail that begin at Orange County’s Magnolia Park, ending at the Orange-Lake County Line. The project is part of the Orange County Sustainability Plan “Our Home for Life,” which began in 2013 as an effort to plan for future population growth in a way that enhances the quality of life for current and future generations. The plan outlines specific incremental and transformative changes for the County through 2040, leading towards a more prosperous, healthy, livable, and connected community. Orange County partnered with Lake County and the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) to host a ribbon cutting for the trail. Mayor Jacobs, former Orange County District 2 Commissioner Fred Brummer, Lake County Commissioner Leslie Campione, Mount Dora Mayor Cathy Hoechst, and SJRWMD Director Robert Christianson, praised the collaboration and effort behind the project.

PINE HILLS HISTORIC
MARKER DEDICATION

In 2014, Pine Hills continued to take ownership of its future! At a special ceremony in June, Pine Hills community leaders and Mayor Jacobs met with local residents to unveil and dedicate a new historical marker and community sign on the actual site of the historic Robinswood Community Center, built originally by residents in the 1950s. The Pine Hills Local Government Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) is actively implementing its task force recommendations as part of the community’s resurgence. The goal is to create a community where citizens can live, work, play and learn in a safe, family oriented, pro-business environment. The NID’s mission is to bring businesses, citizens and government together to solve the challenges of the community.

YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH AND THE BELVIN PERRY, JR., CENTRAL RECEIVING CENTER

To honor retiring Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., for his dedication and leadership on mental-health and substance-abuse issues, Orange County’s Central Receiving Facility was renamed in his honor in August. The Belvin Perry, Jr., Central Receiving Center (CRC) provides necessary resources and care for patients suffering from mental-health or a substance-abuse crisis, while offering intensive case management for those who have been diagnosed with mental illness and substance-abuse disorders. The facility also administers transitional housing for the chronically homeless.

The CRC functions in partnership with local hospitals and law enforcement as a recommendation of Orange County's Jail Oversight Commission. Through collaboration, it is saving millions of dollars in costs for hospitals, jails and law enforcement resources. Equally important is the enormously positive impact that this compassionate care model has on our most vulnerable citizens.

During the past decade, the CRC's concept of crisis intervention has grown and evolved into a recognized best practice for the State of Florida, and beyond. Mayor Jacobs toured the CRC with Minnesota Sen. Barb Goodwin and Hennepin County 4th Judicial District Judge Jay Quam in October to give the officials an overview of the CRC’s best practices in caring for citizens with emotional, behavioral, mental-health and substance-abuse challenges. Sen. Goodwin would like to model the CRC in her state of Minnesota.

ORANGE COUNTY HONORS
MILTARY AND VETERANS

As part of Orange County’s long-standing tradition of honoring our military men and women, a “Lone Sailor Memorial” will be built at Blue Jacket Park in the Baldwin Park community. The memorial will serve as a reminder of the Navy’s presence in Central Florida, as well as an inspiration to those who are currently serving or will serve in the U. S. Navy. The two-piece Lone Sailor statue, a 7-foot-tall sailor with a sea bag and cleat, weighs 1,700 pounds and was created by Stanley Bleifeld, the U.S. Navy Memorial’s official sculptor.

The monument is the 14th Lone Sailor Memorial in the nation and the first to be placed on former Navy property. It memorializes Orlando's Naval Training Center, which was used for enlisted recruits from 1965 through 1995. More than 650,000 sailors trained at the facility, which brought in more than $500 million to Orlando’s economy, according to the Central Florida Navy League. At the groundbreaking ceremony in April, Mayor Jacobs was joined by Congressman Daniel Webster, Congressman John Mica, District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Thompson, City of Orlando Commissioner Robert Stuart and, other elected officials and community leaders.

In May, Mayor Jacobs and the Veterans Advisory Council joined in saluting the nation’s brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in our Armed Forces during the annual Orange County War Memorial Commemoration Ceremony at the Orange County Courthouse.

Mayor Jacobs also joined Florida Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs to present at the Central Florida Veterans Medal Ceremony at the 124st Infantry in July. Additionally, during Hispanic Heritage Month in October, Mayor Jacobs recognized local veterans who served in the U.S. Army’s 65th Infantry Regiment, a unit that was comprised of primarily Puerto Rican heritage known popularly as "The Borinqueneers." These courageous veterans were commemorated as the newest recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal - the highest civilian award in the United States.

In November, Mayor Jacobs and Orange County honored its retired military at the County’s Veterans Day Ceremony held annually at the Orange County Convention Center.

AUTISM WALK AND
FAMILY FUN DAY

Mayor Jacobs welcomed participants and families to the 9th Annual Autism Walk and Family Fun Day and provided the keynote speech at the Orange County Convention Center. The Mayor provided a proclamation naming May 3, 2014, as Autism Walk Day in Orange County. She then kicked-off the walk with a countdown and led the way around the concourse. The annual 5K walk assists in raising funds for local families and increasing autism awareness through the Autism Society of Greater Orlando (ASGO).

ASGO was founded in 1996 by a group of parent volunteers to better assist families of children and adults with autism in Central Florida. According to ASGO, approximately 10,000 individuals living in the Orlando area have been diagnosed with autism.