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Operation PAR Moves Toward Private Reimbursement
Written by Ted Jackson   
September 2014

Founded almost 45 years ago by a mother concerned about her teenage daughter, the worried mother, Shirley Coletti, would sit up with her neighbor and friend, who in 1970 just happened  to be the State Attorney for Pinellas County and in a position and the kind of guy that could get things done. Fast forward almost four and a half decades later, and Operation PAR over the years took advantage of the many officials, both elected and appointed, who wanted to help and saw a need. And now Operation PAR is a treatment center with over 400 employees that has some kind service offering in six counties in the central western part of Florida and, up until quite recently, got most of its revenue from the state, county or federal government, or was a "public" center in the sense that most of its funding came from grants and the like and many clients did not have to pay to go to treatment at Operation PAR.

A Major Change

But like at so many public centers in recent years, due mainly to a significant deterioration in state finances following the worst recession since the Great Depression, public centers like Operation PAR have had to change their business models big time, with centers like Gateway Chicago leading the way with major increases in the amount of business they do with commercial insurance payors. Because state funding has fallen off so quickly in many states, states like Illinois where Gateway  Chicago had built up enormous operations and in a testament to the success of the transition to private funding, continues to grow and open new outpatient offices. For Operation PAR the importance of a successful move to diversify funding sources is just as critical, and CEO Nancy Hamilton, like Gateway CEO Michael Darcy, has spent her entire career at Operation PAR so has been in a unique position to guide a total cultural transformation, one that the numbers bear out. At the turn of the century, Operation PAR was getting basically all its revenues from government sources, and in its most recent reporting fiscal year 17 percent out of a total $27M  in client service revenues came from private insurance and client out-of-pocket sources. And when Medicaid is figured in that rises to a quite astounding 55 percent of total client service revenues.

$4,500 Variable Stay Program

At the root of the transformation is an innovative, highly flexible program that charges just $4,500 for a 30-day stay, a stay that some clients have stretched for as long as six months. And one source of clientele that shows how Operation PAR marketing and outreach personnel have their eye on the local markets looking for ways to increase private census has been to use tough Florida DUI laws, which mandate 10-30 day jail terms upon one's second DUI. What Operation PAR has done has gone and persuaded judges to allow those DUI jail terms to be done instead at Operation PAR, not a hard sell since judges all over Florida are aware that Operation Par delivers evidence-based practices high quality care whose basis was, ironically, funded when grants were flush in the 1990s and beyond the Millennium, pre-recession. "For arrangements like this, with the DUI referrals, often people will come up with the money, making that extra effort to avoid jail," says CEO Hamilton, adding that myriad commercial payor in-network relationships have been set up in recent years. What the goal is now for Operation Par is to use its $4,500 for 30-days - or $150 per day- Variable Stay Length program to attract clientele from all over the Southeastern United States. "There is no question our treatment product stands up with any other, says Hamilton, adding that over the years Operation PAR has worked on clinical trials and other research for a host of nationally known names like John Hopkins, U of Miami and others. Clearly the $4,500.00 does not include detox, so clients have to arrive fully detoxed, or they can take advantage of the detox options available at Operation PAR, which are equally reasonably priced.

Diversity of Funding Sources

Hamilton points out that Florida consistently rates at the very bottom of states to provide funding for the various social services, including something as important as addiction. "So for us this cultural change to marketing versus grant writing is critical, and thank God with the excellence of our programs we have a lot to market." TJ

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