Pinellas, Fla. (May 12, 2015) – Operation PAR, a behavioral health and wellness organization whose mission is to strengthen our communities by caring for families and individuals impacted by substance abuse and mental illness, has been providing effective treatment and services for 45 years. About five years ago Joanne Cook, a junior accountant for Operation PAR, started taking her dog Casey, a Doberman Pinscher, to work as part of their new Pet Therapy program. Casey has since retired but her son Ice, also a Doberman, picks up right where Casey left off.
The Pet Therapy program is designed to help clients who are in PAR programs and away from their pets. For a dog to participate in the pet therapy program the dog must be a certified Pet Therapy dog and have the right personality to be able to go up to people they have never met before and be friendly and accepting.
“When we go to PAR locations the visits are usually conducted in a group setting. I have Ice visit with each client and let them pet him and ask questions. The questions range from how is Ice trained to be a therapy dog, to how he is groomed, how old he is he, and how he qualifies to be a therapy dog,” says Cook. “Pets are very comforting and provide a balance in people’s lives. They have unconditional love and can be very soothing to the clients.”
About Operation PAR
Operation PAR, Inc. began after a mother discovered her teenage daughter experimenting with drugs. This mother, Shirley Coletti, sat up all night and worried with her friend and neighbor, James T. Russell, who was then Pinellas County’s State Attorney. Mrs. Coletti discovered that there was no place for parents like herself to turn for help. So, with the assistance of several parent advocates, Pinellas County Sheriff Don Genung, State Attorney Russell and former Pinellas County Commissioner Charles Rainey, Operation Parental Awareness and Responsibility was founded, an organization that would provide parents the necessary resources to battle drug addiction. Operation PAR, Inc. has been putting Florida’s families first since incorporating as a nonprofit organization in 1970. Prior to receiving federal funding, Operation PAR provided treatment services with a volunteer staff of paraprofessionals and professionals. Today, staffed with more than 400 employees, Operation PAR provides integrated addiction and mental health services at its various sites in Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Manatee, Sarasota and Lee counties.