Tuesday, November 22, 2011

CT DMHAS NW Region is IN THE KNOW about Psychiatric Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Maeve and I love working in the northwest region of CT. The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services staff are terrific and it's the location of a fabulous ICCD clubhouse -- Prime Time. We did an in-service for DMHAS staff (and at least one from Prime Time) last Thursday in Torrington CT and it was great!

While Maeve and I provided a lot of information to the attendees, we can take little credit for their enthusiasm about helping people with psychiatric disabilities get animals.  First, they love animals.  It's a good thing Maeve has thick hair -- she was petted so much she'd have bald spots if she were a lesser dog.  Second, they clearly love the people they serve. Their eyes lit up whenever we talked about them helping those people use their rights under federal law to get pets in no-pets housing without deposits or fees.

I was particularly thrilled by their response when I mentioned the author of my favorite essay, "Each time I recover enough, I borrow a dog," Larry Davidson, Ph.D. When I mentioned his name, they nearly cheered, "Oh yes! The Recovery Guy!"  I had just finished reading his book, A Practical Guide to Recovery-Oriented Practice: Tools for Transforming Mental Health Care. Until reading this book I had never felt comfortable using the term "recovery" to describe what I've done with my life since my  bipolar disorder became so disabling that I could no longer work. 

During the in-service, we talked about the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities to travel through their lives accompanied by their service dogs in virtually every place the public is allowed (under the Americans with Disabilities Act), to emotional support animals (pets) in no-pets housing without deposits or fees (under the Fair Housing Act). We also spoke about the rights of people with service dogs to bring them into hospitals and doctors offices, including the endorsement of this by the Center for Disease Control. I also talked about the impact that training and being accompanied by Maeve has made in my own life.  

There was one more bit of satisfaction I got during our presentation. Maeve and I did similar presentations last year for the members and staff of PrimeTime and for our Advocacy Unlimited mental health advocacy class in Torrington.  A staff member from Prime Time who was taking a Recovery University course offered by Advocacy Unlimited knew all the answers to the questions about the rights to animals granted by the ADA and FHA.  He'd just been tested on them in his RU course.  I hadn't been aware that this information had been incorporated into the Advocacy Unlimited courses and was thrilled to hear about it.

If you're involved with an organization that works with people with psychiatric disabilities, an educational organization that trains people to do such work, or any organization that might be interested in learning more about these rights, please see our webpage on our U.S. tour and our Contact Us page. We'd love to hear from you!

1 comment:

  1. I was delighted to be able to bring you and Maeve to Western Ct Mental Health Network - Torrington site. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy your presentaation but I learned some very important pieces of information about what is required to get a psychiatric service dog and their uses. I always thought they would be for emotional support only and was interested to hear the other ways in which they can assist a person with a psychiatric disability. It was also critical that we all learn that any of our clients have the right to a service animal despite the rules of their residence. I hope you keep spreading the word! I do not have a psychiatric disability but live alone and my dog is essentail to my well being. I have always felt saddened that our clients usually cannot have a dog because of the rules of most apartments. Thank you and God Bless you both!