There was a time when Operation PAR was reliant almost solely upon public funding from the Florida Legislature and the Pinellas County criminal justice system for its client base. A cost-effective and outcome based treatment delivery model caused the Pinellas County criminal courts to rely upon PAR as the primary agency for conducting substance abuse evaluations. For over twenty years, they also acted as the primary treatment provider when a defendant’s sentence included a requirement that they complete out patient or residential drug treatment care.
Starting in 2001, Operation PAR assigned Georgina Rullo to be the court liaison specialist. Georgina is a Florida Certified Addictions Professional whose responsibilities entailed making regular courtroom appearances before all of the Pinellas Judges. As might be expected, she was also an integral part of the creation of Pinellas County’s drug court division. Georgina’s input during court proceedings provided the judges with critical information concerning a defendant’s amenability to treatment, the anticipated level of treatment and later insight into how the individual was responding to the prescribed addiction curriculum.
How it is Helping Our Clients Beat Addiction & Avoid Prison
In 2011, PAR’s contract with the Florida Department of Corrections “Residential Community Beds” program was not renewed. As a result, some law offices no longer looked to Operation PAR when they encountered a client with substance addiction issues. However, our criminal defense team continued its support of PAR’s work in the community. We had the benefit of a long and rewarding history of working together with this proven organization. Our office considered Georgina Rullo and the entire staff at PAR to be a critical part of the “Network of Support” that we rely upon when defending clients on Pinellas county criminal charges. In fact, our lawyers are the only Pinellas Criminal Defense Attorneys who share membership with PAR’s counselors in the Florida Association of Drug Court Professionals.
Cutbacks in government funding caused by the recent recession forced many publicly funded addiction treatment centers to limit the number of available beds or to take the more drastic step of closing up shop. With the rising use of highly addictive opiates and heroin, this has put a real squeeze on people who want to address their addiction and achieve the desired goal of obtaining rehabilitation while avoiding incarceration.
What many people in the local legal community failed to recognize, was that PAR’s dramatically changed their business model by evolving into a low-cost, high-efficacy private treatment center. Suddenly, our clients facing violations of probation, felony drug possession charges, prescription fraud or doctor shopping offenses had access to high quality affordable residential treatment under the new “Variable Stay Program.” For a reasonable $4,500.00 fee our clients could complete a 30-day residential counseling program that was impressive to the judge, and highly successful at addressing their underlying addiction. Our clients secured the tools they needed to battle their addiction and at the same time, they were providing us with evidence of rehabilitation that we could use to secure the best possible outcome in their criminal court case. It was a win-win situation.
Avoiding Mandatory Jail on a Multiple DUI Offense
Florida DUI penalties are unforgiving. The law mandates a mandatory minimum ten days of jail for a second DUI offense that occurs within five years of a prior conviction. A third DUI arrest may mandate a minimum of thirty days of jail. Our office can sometimes avoid the imposition of a jail sentence by getting our client’s DUI charge reduced to a reckless driving offense.
In “multiple offender” situations, other clients have been able to satisfy a mandatory jail sentence by taking advantage of PAR’s “Variable Stay Program.” That is because, Florida Statute Section 316.193(6)(m) provides that any time constructively spent in a residential alcohol or drug treatment program can be credited against the mandatory jail time required by the Florida Legislature.
The terms of the “Variable Stay Program” permit an individual to participate for a ten-day period of residential treatment at a cost of $150.00 per day. Such an arrangement can be highly motivational in getting someone into treatment, as opposed to burdening the tax payers with the high cost associated with incarceration in a county jail facility. In addition, it achieves the goals of the Florida Legislature by favoring addiction treatment measures over “straight” jail time.
Residential Treatment and the Pinellas Drug Court
There is no question that going into a residential treatment program is better for both society and the individual accused of a criminal offense than a county jail or state prison sentence. From a societal standpoint, the criminal justice system is recognizing that investing in treatment pays dividends. For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has found that every dollar spent on treatment for drug addiction yields a savings of between four and seven dollars in criminal justice costs. It is for this reason, that there has been a ground swell of support for Pinellas County’s specialized drug court. Participants in the drug court either have their drug charge dismissed by completing the Pre Trial Intervention Program or avoid a formal conviction by securing a withhold of adjudication. Most importantly, the drug court favors rehabilitation over incarceration. When individuals have the proper tools they need to stay clean and sober, recidivism is greatly reduced. For the individual this path leads to a way out of the “revolving door” of the criminal courthouse and towards an education, a job, a family, and a future.
Residential Treatment with Medical Insurance
Only a small percentage of our clients facing felony drug charges have the benefit of medical insurance to address their drug addiction problems. Even if they do have insurance, many clients are still forced to do battle with their insurance company when they seek to enter residential treatment. We are often baffled when an insurance company determines that “out-patient” counseling is the more appropriate remedy. This lesser method of treatment is more often approved by the insurance company despite a client’s long term drug abuse, an escalation of the potency of his or her “drug of choice” and even situations involving intravenous drug use.
For example, insurance companies are reluctant to approve residential treatment for opiate addictions. They contend that there does not exist a “medical necessity” for inpatient care because of the availability of Suboxone which can be prescribed and monitored on an outpatient basis.
When this injustice takes place, it is merely an affirmation that insurance companies are “for profit’ entities whose shareholders hold a superior position over their policy holders. The companies enjoy collecting premiums, but are loathe to approve expensive benefits. It is for this reason, policy holders are often told to take generic drugs, substitute a less expensive class of pharmaceuticals or are encouraged to pursue a less intensive course of addiction treatment.
Footing the Bill Yourself for Residential Drug Treatment
What about those people who lack medical insurance, but are in desperate need of residential treatment for their drug addiction? You would probably find the price of an ocean front luxury drug treatment facility to be staggering. Even if you back out the “luxury” component, the average price for a thirty day residential program comes at a cost north of $25,000.00.
PAR was founded nearly forty-five years ago and employs a qualified staff of over 400 people. The cost of their thirty day stay represents an 82% savings over the average cost of residential treatment. From the stand point of a criminal defense attorney, the “Variable Stay Program” is one heck of a bargain that carries significant benefits when measured from multiple perspectives.
The Secret is Out...
This month, Operation PAR’s innovative “Variable Stay Program” was featured in the National Publication “Treatment Magazine.” The article was entitled “Operation PAR: a Central Florida Affordable Alternative.”
With a subscriber base in excess of 200,000 the addiction industry’s leading publication has spotlighted an opportunity we have known about and used to our client’s advantage for years.
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