At UCLA Health, patients are offered a special kind of therapy that does not involve needles, medicine or high-tech machines.
It's the healing power of animal-assisted therapy. Studies have shown that it can bring about physiological benefits such as decreased blood pressure, and lower heart and respiratory rates.
One of the most comprehensive programs in the country, the People-Animal Connection (PAC) at UCLA Health has been offering companionship and warmth to patients for more than 20 years. PAC's 70 human/dog volunteer teams visit more than 1,000 pediatric and adult patients each month.
However, the program is completely donation-based. That means all of the costs associated with running the program come from the generosity of donors.
To help support this vital healing program, PAC is embarking on an online crowdfunding campaign. The UCLA Spark (https://spark.ucla.edu/PAC) campaign will run from Oct. 30 through Dec. 6. The goal is to raise $25,000.
"We wholeheartedly believe that visits with our animal assisted therapy teams directly contribute to patients' healing process," said Erin Rice, director of the UCLA Health PAC program. "We encourage everyone to check out our campaign site, watch the heartwarming video and donate to our program."
The fundraiser will support a variety of costs including training materials, education, lab testing for the dogs, uniforms and keepsake photos for patients. It will also help the program realize its goal to expand so that even more patients can experience a PAC visit.
Started in 1994, the UCLA People-Animal Connection program has been a vital source of comfort for thousands of in-hospital patients. In addition, PAC is involved with other innovative programs including:
•City National's Reading is the Way Up, a reading program for pediatric patients that helps children learn to read and allows them to gain motivational and social skills through interaction with dogs.
•The PetPal Program which reunites hospitalized patients at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center with their own pets in an outdoor setting adjacent to the hospital.
•The Stressbusters Program at Powell Library, which strives to provide stress-relieving dog visits with UCLA students during the crazy bustle of finals week.
•Dog visits with patients and families of UCLA Health's Operation Mend program which provides medical services to our nation's wounded warriors.