The Hardin Memorial Health (HMH) Foundation approved a $32,500 request to establish a pet therapy program at HMH called Providing Unconditional Patient Support or P.U.P.S. The funding will allow HMH to employ a program manager/dog handler and cover the cost of a full-time facility dog who will regularly visit with patients.
HMH chaplain Jessica Jasper, nurse manager Leeanne Williams, Pet Therapy volunteer Allison Reed, and Baron, one of HMH’s two volunteer pet therapy dogs, were on hand at the recent Foundation board meeting to request the funding and to tout the benefits of the program they piloted this past year using volunteer resources.
Jasper explained the distinction between animal assisted activities and animal assisted therapy.
“Animal assisted therapy is a guided interaction between a person and a trained animal to help patients recover from or better cope with health problems, such as pain, heart disease, cancer, dementia and mental health disorders,” said Jasper. “Launching P.U.P.S. will help HMH improve care using evidence-based therapies that improve patient outcomes.”
According to Jasper, studies show that patients who interact with therapy animals experience reduced pain, anxiety and blood pressure along with lower heart rate.
“HMH cares for nearly 1,000 cancer patients each year not, to mention operating one of the busiest emergency departments in Kentucky,” said Jasper. “Having a therapy dog like Baron readily available to help patients, their families and the HMH staff will have a tremendously positive impact.”
HMH Foundation Chairman Joe Prather said the Foundation board wanted to be the catalyst for this special pet therapy program.
“The HMH Foundation helps fund breakthrough initiatives that strengthen the care HMH provides. Providing start- up funds for a pet therapy program fits our mission perfectly,” said Prather. “I hope individual donors and community groups will join us in supporting pet therapy and HMH can expand it even further.”
Prather directed those interested in helping support the program to visit the Foundation website to donate.
Since re-established in 2015, the HMH Foundation has secured more than $3.3 million to improve HMH patient care.