How to spend opioid settlement money? Pasco mulls treatment options | Pasco

The county will divvy up $8 million in the coming months.

There are lots of approaches to treating opioid addiction, as Pasco County saw firsthand earlier this month.

Pasco County’s Opioid Task Force has received 24 proposals from groups competing to receive part of $8 million the county will receive in the first year as its share of lawsuit settlements with drug manufacturers and distributors.

The proposals include everything from freeze therapy to day care.

“The basic criteria for these projects are that they must provide evidence-based practices in the treatment, prevention and recovery of substance use disorders in Pasco County for county residents,” said Paula Baracaldo, Pasco’s director of support services, who leads the Opioid Task Force. They must also match the county’s approved community abatement plan.

The proposals will be weighed on the strength of groups’ finances, their level of experience in substance and mental health treatment, and their timeline for implementation, Baracaldo said.

The proposals include a batch of ideas to expand existing programs that combat addiction, such as a $4.5 million request to add 30 more beds to the Steps to Recovery Program, which has been operating in Pasco since 2006. There is also a $4.49 million application from BayCare Behavioral Health Inc. for an advanced opiate treatment and recovery urgent care center.

Both of those requests also come with promised matching funds from other sources. Some of the organizations are asking for a one-time-only expenditure while others seek funding for expected recurring annual costs.

Operation PAR Inc. is seeking $3.6 million to expand its opioid recovery program into east Pasco. It currently has two federally licensed treatment programs in west Pasco and proposes a mobile medication-assisted treatment service and expanded availability on weekends.

Pasco County Library Services has requested annual funding of $115,750 to provide social work training and support on prevention and intervention options for Pasco’s service employees who are in contact with the public.

A summer camp focused on opioid education and prevention for adolescents was pitched by GMABC Education Center and NAEH Media Group for $141,400, while Inmar Intelligence is seeking $300,000 to provide kiosks to allow convenient disposal locations for unused and unwanted medications. The latter would add to a network of 6,000 similar drop-off locations nationwide.

WeeCare Inc. has asked for $3.75 million to provide an early care and education child care program to both educate young children and also assist parents to be able to work by covering day care costs. Loving Hands Ministries in Dade City is seeking $100,000 to renovate its building to expand its ability to serve those in its residential drug treatment center.

A transitional housing plan is proposed by the Shady Hills Mission Chapel. That proposal, which seeks $925,000, would place 10 container homes on a 5-acre site on State Road 52 near Interstate 75 to serve the homeless and citizens returning from stays in substance abuse and mental health programs or the Pasco County jail.

Another idea comes from Cryoeeze 22 Inc. of New Port Richey, which is seeking $250,000 to assist veterans with addiction issues using a variety of therapies, including cryotherapy, light therapy and hyperbaric therapy.

The task force will meet in the next several weeks to finalize its recommendations and the County Commission is expected to pick the projects that will receive funding as early as October. The county will also follow up on the various projects.

Baracaldo said that once providers are approved, the winning applicants will be required to provide the county reports on how the money was used and the outcomes of treatment.

She was hopeful that the dollars will get where they are most needed.

“Through the support of our teams and the board of county commissioners, our aim is that these funds will be utilized for the benefit of families that have been negatively impacted by substance-use disorder and related mental health conditions,” she said.

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