Press Release: VA awards significant funding to Eagala Military Designated programs

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VA provides $637,700 for Equine-Assisted Mental Health Services to Veterans and Service Members through Eagala Military Services Designated Programs across the United States

SANTAQUIN, Utah, Nov. 5, 2019/PRNewswire/–

Eagala will receive $637,700 to fund services that have been shown to improve the mental and emotional health of veterans and service members across the United States. This funding, provided by the VA Adaptive Sport Grant (ASG), will serve veterans and Military service members from October 2019-September 2020 through equine-assisted psychotherapy–where horses are involved in focused, professional clinical interventions to address trauma and other mental health needs, including substance abuse, depression and improving family relationships.

Eagala received one of the largest awards in recent history with just under half of the $1.5 million specifically designated for equine-assisted mental health within the VA ASG’s full budget. The organization’s recent grant funding from the VA has nearly tripled from last year’s inaugural funding thanks in part to the program evaluation clinical outcomes showing extremely positive results.The funding will serve veteran and military individuals, couples or groups in partnership with Eagala’s national network of Military Designated Programs.

Eagala Military Designated programs have facilitation teams of licensed mental health professionals and certified equine professionals who work in partnership with horses to provide services. The Eagala Military Designation was created as a way of setting and maintaining the standard of clinical training and cultural competence required to effectively work with military populations in a mental health setting. There are currently 19 programs in the US that have earned the Eagala Military Designation, and CEO Lynn Thomas expects that number to grow rapidly. “Eagala is proud to be the only equine-assisted mental health organization in the industry to put forth and maintain these critically important clinical and cultural competence standards,” Thomas said. “This grant will enable us to grow our programs providing this effective approach serving veterans.”

Halina Kowalski, Eagala Military Services Director, led the grant effort and will oversee its management and coordinate collective outcome-based projects in collaboration with Eagala Military Services programs. According to Kowalski, “Very early preliminary program evaluation outcomes from last year’s ASG funded programming are showing that veterans are experiencing a clinically meaningful reduction of PTSD symptoms and their quality of life is significantly increasing as well. We are expecting to see this trend continue and we have plans for future research projects and publication. ”

In the Eagala Model, all work is done in relationship with horses exclusively on the ground. It is a specific mental health treatment protocol incorporating horses provided by an Eagala Certified team of mental health professional and equine specialist. It is effective because it embraces the science that humans learn best by doing. The model prescribes a hands-on approach where veterans are given the space to project and analyze their situations, make connections, and find their own solutions. How do horses help the process? Horses are a prey animal, and as a result, they are hyper-sensitive to their environment, something that veterans relate to. As a result of their sensitivity, horses respond in ways that provide feedback to the veterans of relationships in their lives, whether it be with others, their environment, or themselves. Horses provide an emotionally safe way to work through and strengthen these relationships.

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