Mental Health Participant Pet Boarding Services: The community feedback period for this idea began on 10/30/2018 and ended on 12/29/2018. *STATUS UPDATE*

What is the problem that needs to be addressed? Please describe how it is related to mental health.

The homeless population in Orange County struggles with linkage to mental health programs. There are significant barriers to someone dealing with mental health issues and homelessness at the same time, causing them to not engage in treatment. Without treatment, a homeless individual has less opportunity to be housed and reduce the impairments that sustain their homelessness. One of those major barriers is pets. A homeless individual’s animal is a significant companion and support element in their lives. Many times, homeless individuals refuse shelter and treatment appointments because they cannot bring their animal. As minor as this issue sounds, it is in reality a significant problem that impacts someone accessing mental health services.


Why is this a concern for Orange County? What can Orange County and other counties learn from this project?

The homeless issue is at a crisis point in Orange County. Individuals refuse shelter daily, and the lack of animal care options is one of the largest barriers that the homeless population faces. Being innovative about animal care options can teach counties how to think outside the box when coming up with solutions to accessing the mental health system of care for homeless individuals.


What is currently being done to resolve this problem in our county and throughout the United States? If applicable: Is it working; why or why not?

There are very limited options for homeless individuals with pets. Some shelters have limited numbers of pet beds, but those go quickly. And the participants need to care for their animals while at the shelter. If there was a program available to support the homeless participant seeking linkage to services while giving them a boarding option, it would open up treatment and shelter that couldn’t be used previously.


What is new or different about this project idea? Please describe how this differs from what is already being done (Question 6). Please list any research that was done on this topic.

There have been limited options for looking at the animal care barriers to someone seeking treatment.


What is the project idea? Please describe how this project will operate.

The program being proposed is service focused on reducing the animal boarding and care barrier to those homeless individuals seeking mental health treatment and shelter/housing. A provider would create a network of veternarians, boarding programs, animal day care, and animal foster volunteers who would be available to outreach programs to immediately foster for days, overnights and up to 30 days for individuals ready to seek treatment and/or shelter. The program staff would work in collaboration with OC Animal Care to create this network of animal care options for the homeless population. This would increase an individual’s opportunity to seek shelter, and be immediately connected to mental health services. Many homeless will not part with their animals, but the option of having somewhere for them to go for the day while they tend to mental health or housing intake appointments would greatly increase mental health access for this highly vulnerable population. The program would seek volunteers, low cost boarding, and be able to pay or subcontract with boarding options. Finally, the program would also engage previously homeless individuals who have been housed in the last year or two, and train them to be animal foster sites.


Additional Information:

Respondent skipped this question


October 17, 2018


There are other programs that have a network of resources to assist with treating, fostering, sheltering or kenneling pets when homeless individuals are seeking housing, etc. such as Chico Homeless Animal Outreach and Family Promise Services. Other than having a specific focus on pet owners with mental health concerns, how would this project be different than currently existing programs?

This program would be tied to mental health outreach, linking individuals to mental health treatment at the same time. This is not just about an animal boarding network of resources. This is to support an individual’s recovery by connecting them to the treatment they need. The program would include a mental health assessment and immediate linkage for both the pet to boarding, and for the individual to mental health services.

What could we learn from this project that would be new and contribute to learning in this area given that there are similar programs currently providing these services?

We could be assessing the impact of immediate linkage to mental health treatment while supporting the importance of caring for the individual’s pet as a motivator to making that linkage. Measuring that impact could demonstrate through data that looking at the whole person, and providing support services, can reduce failed attempts at treatment linkage.

How would the success of this program be measured?

The success of this program could be measured through the number of successful linkages of the animals to boarding compared to the number of successful linkages of the pet owner to mental health treatment services, shelter, and housing.

Innovations Team

Thank you for your idea submission. Upon review and discussion, it was determined that this idea can continue moving forward at this time for further consideration and development. The Innovation team is currently exploring options for a community planning and engagement meeting where potentially viable ideas can be further discussed with local community members. Status updates will be posted as they become available.

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