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Press Releases

NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst Launches Pet Therapy Program for Behavioral Health In-Patients

Partnering with Fairview Rehab and Nursing Home, patients will receive twice-a-month visits from furry friends to support their treatment and recovery

Jul 06, 2021

Elmhurst, NY

NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst today announced the launch of its pet therapy program for behavioral health in-patients. Partnering with Queens-based Fairview Rehab and Nursing Home, behavioral health patients will receive twice-a-month visits from therapy dogs to support their treatment and recovery. During each visit, two pet handlers will come to the hospital with a couple of therapy dogs who will visit patients currently hospitalized for behavioral health disorders, such as major depressive/affective disorders and various diagnoses of schizophrenia. The animals will visit the patients in a group setting for approximately 15-20 minutes per unit, where they’ll provide positive human-animal interactions for those in treatment.

“Animals bring such joy into our lives in numerous ways, so I’m very happy that we will now be able to offer pet therapy to our behavioral health patients,” said NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst’s CEO Helen Arteaga Landaverde, MPH. “Our patients will benefit greatly from the feeling of peace and emotional well-being that can be supplied by furry friends.”

“The addition of pet therapy to our behavioral health in-patient services is a unique way to help promote emotional healing for our patients,” said NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst’s Director of Behavioral Health Vladimir Gasca, MD. “Interacting with therapy animals may not only help with reducing our patients’ feelings of isolation, stress, anxiety, and depression, but might also give them a chance to smile, laugh, and feel loved during a difficult time.”

At the time of admission to the behavioral health unit, patients will be informed about the pet therapy program and asked if they’d like to participate and any related pet allergies they may have. During each visit, patients can pet the animals and are free to ask the handlers any questions.

Animal-assisted therapy has been proven to significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people with a range of mental health issues, as well as assist people receiving treatment for serious physical ailments such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

For more information regarding NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst’s programs and services, please visit nychealthandhospitals.org/Elmhurst or call 844-NYC-4NYC.