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Bellefonte Behavioral Health Center adds pet therapy

RUSSELL, Ky. — Bon Secours Kentucky Health System’s Bellefonte Behavioral Health Center has added pet therapy for its patients in a partnership with Therapy Dogs International (TDI).

Digit, an Old English Sheepdog, is the newest staff member of the Bellefonte Behavioral Health Center. Digit and her handler Teresa Huddle visit the center’s patients every Wednesday. The Bellefonte Behavioral Health Center, located on the Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital campus in Russell, assists patients with mental health and substance abuse issues. Digit visits with patients in the center’s senior adult psychiatric, adult psychiatric and adult dependency units. “In fall of 2011 Digit became a certified therapy dog with TDI,” said Huddle. “Since that time we have over 300 visits to local nursing homes, schools, libraries, church groups, colleges and universities and the VA.” Digit, age 10, has been involved in pet therapy since she was two.

“Digit came highly recommended and she has already had a huge impact on our patients,” said Bellefonte Behavioral Health Center community education coordinator Melissa McKenzie. “Digit is the first animal we’ve used at OLBH for therapy, and she has been able to reach patients in ways that enhance the other therapies they receive at the center.”

TDI is a volunteer organization dedicated to regulating, testing and registering of therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers for the purpose of visiting nursing homes, hospitals and wherever else therapy dogs are needed. TDI was founded in 1976 in New Jersey and registers all breeds of dogs. Some dogs have pedigrees, while others have been adopted from local shelters or are rescue dogs. Approximately 25,000 dogs are registered nationwide with TDI.

For more information on the Bellefonte Behavioral Health Center, visit the Bon Secours Kentucky Health System website at olbh.com or call the OLBH CareLine at (606) 833-CARE (2273).