Pathways Community Services Kickstart program is always looking for new ways to encourage clients and family members to engage in healthy and safe activities, with the ultimate goal to improve overall health and well-being. Kickstart is a Prevention and Early Intervention Behavioral Health Program in San Diego that operates on the model that by engaging all members of the family and support system of clients and reducing stress in the lives of children, youth and young adults, we can decrease their chances of developing a severe mental illness.
Pathways Community Services has been partnering with the San Diego Humane Society for many years and has built a strong collaborative relationship with the volunteers that facilitate their Pet Assisted Therapy program. Since February 2019, these volunteers have visited with families in the Kickstart program each month, bringing with them the Pet Assisted Therapy trained animals. Clients are able to interact with, pet and hold the animals which helps increase their feelings of peace, comfort and calm and has helped clients socialize and laugh with one another.
The Pet Assisted Therapy program is one of Pathways Community Services’ most popular Peer Support Activities, and clients that attend regularly have reported decreased levels of stress and anxiety at the end of the activity on Friday, which carries with them through the weekend.
The program also helps children and parents bond with each other and disconnect from their cell phones, video games and social media. Parents have communicated that they appreciate Kickstart holding this as an after-school activity that their children can attend in a safe environment. Kickstart Peer Support Staff supervise and mentor clients during the program. All clients are welcome to attend, regardless of what area of the County they live as Peer Support Staff are also available to help transport clients to and from the activity for those with transportation barriers.