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Operation PAR gets grant to provide counseling for seniors

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NEW PORT RICHEY — Older Pasco residents battling addictions to prescription pills, alcohol or drugs soon could find help at their fingertips.

Operation PAR got a federal grant for a three-year program to aid struggling residents through their computers, tablet devices or smartphones, according to Thad Lowrey, vice president of governmental relations for the addiction and mental health agency.

The initiative will start exclusively in Pasco County, with aid for up to 120 families, Marvin Coleman, Operation PAR vice president of community and business relations, said.

Eventually, the program could expand to Pinellas, Lee, Manatee and Hernando counties, in which Operation PAR also has programs.

Operation PAR will target high-risk senior adults ages 60 years and older, who account for 27.6 percent of Pasco County’s total population. Aid also could go to veterans or pregnant women 18 years old or older, among others.

“We’re proud to be a part of it,” Coleman said in an interview about the Technology-Assisted Care federal grant. The money comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. PAR is still estimating the exact value of the grant.

PAR officials have incorporated many changes during the agency’s 43 years as a behavioral healthcare provider.

“The Technology-Assisted Care Coordination federal grant gives Operation PAR an opportunity to strengthen its health care innovation and access to care, while ensuring cost-efficiencies through the use of technology,” Nancy Hamilton said in a press release as president and CEO of PAR.

The technological outpatient treatment program, called eServices, will provide telephone or web-based counseling.

As the service is phased in, PAR eventually could tap into Global Positioning Satellite functions of computer gear and phones, Coleman said. The person seeking help could provide a list of places where temptation is strong. PAR staff then could help steer them away from high-risk areas.

Some of the details to set up the program must be ironed out, officials said. Some families could use their own smartphones and other devices to access the secure sites. PAR officials could consider loaning devices to families without the necessary gear.

PAR first will look for existing clients who could qualify and benefit from eServices, Coleman added.

People can call now for more information about the new program or other services at the PAR toll-free phone number, (888) PAR-NEXT.

Each year, Operation PAR assists some 13,000 families in the five counties it serves.

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