Supported Decision Making bill helps adults with intellectual disabilities keep freedoms

Michael Lincoln-McCreight pushed for the law for four years
Posted at 9:19 PM, Jul 05, 2024

There are freedoms many people enjoy every day without thinking twice about them: driving a car, choosing a job, living where they want, voting or getting married.

But for adults living with intellectual and developmental disabilities, there’s a greater chance they won’t be able to enjoy those same freedoms if they are placed under a guardianship program.

That’s something a new law could change.

House Bill 73 was recently signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, going into effect on July 1. It provides a path to independence for people living with intellectual disabilities, while still giving them support in making life decisions.

Supported Decision Making is now an option that must be considered by law before more restrictive guardianships are court ordered.

It’s a step down, so to speak, from guardianships, allowing people with intellectual disabilities to still vote, get married and have a say in where they live and work. U.S. Rep. Allison Tant, D-Fla., sponsored the bill.

Her office explained how the bill will help people with disabilities.

First, it creates a new section in Florida’s power of attorney chapter where individuals with developmental disabilities can enter into Supported Decision-Making agreements with their agents. Second, it requires courts to consider the specific abilities and needs of persons with developmental disabilities and whether Supported Decision-Making agreements are appropriate for them.

Finally, it adds Supported Decision-Making agreements to the list of resources provided to students with disabilities aged 18-22 who are still in K-12 schools and whose parents want to continue to be involved in educational decision making.


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Meghan McRoberts
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Michael Lincoln-McCreight was the first person in the state to be removed from the guardianship program and allowed a Supported Decision Making agreement by a judge. He aged out of foster care and was court-ordered a guardian, someone whom he said he didn’t trust. He felt unsafe and contacted a disability rights group to help him get back before a judge.

“I couldn’t go see my friends. Couldn’t go see my family. I couldn’t even do any self-advocacy work that I wanted. I was basically like a prisoner,” Lincoln-McCreight said. He said a judge realized the guardianship was too restrictive for him.

“And clearly, a judge saw that he’s a person, he has a brain, he’s able to vote, he’s able to make his own decisions, why is he even in this guardianship?” Lincoln-McCreight said.

Because he’s now under SDM, he’s working his dream job at Universal Orlando. He lives with roommates. He has a girlfriend. He has a driver’s license. He could get married one day if he wants to. Before he makes any big decisions, he has someone in his corner guaranteed to make sure he's making good choices.

“One of them is Colleen. She’s like a mom to me. I call her regularly, ‘Hey, what do you think about some of these things?’ And she’ll be like, ‘Nope… you’re not doing it!’” laughed Lincoln-McCreight.

He helped push for the law for four years and was ecstatic to see it finally pass.

“It just shows how much people with disabilities actually matter in the state and in people’s lives," Lincoln-McCreight said.



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In a press release, Rep. Tant said: “I cannot thank Disability Rights Florida, the Real Property and Probate Section of the Florida Bar, and the Elder Law Section of the Florida Bar enough for all of the phone calls, meetings, and work that went into this bill. As one of the strongest, if not the strongest, supported decision making pieces of legislation across the country, I am honored that this will serve as a model for other states to follow."

U.S. Rep. Dana Trabulsy, R-Fla., was a co-sponsor of the bill, writing, “Today marks a monumental day for individuals with developmental disabilities in Florida as HB 73 comes into effect, championing a new era of empowerment and autonomy... This bill not only ensures that all Floridians have the opportunity to lead independent and fulfilling lives, but it also reinforces our commitment as a legislature to inclusivity and autonomy for all Floridians. With HB 73 coming into effect, we are entering a future where Floridians with developmental disabilities can confidently engage in critical life decisions without losing their independence.”

This makes Florida the 17th state with a Supported Decision Making law.

It’s not to say guardianships are not appropriate; they are vital in certain cases. The law ensures that helping adults with special needs is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach.