A Message from Sheriff Scott Israel

HORSEPLAY: A ROAD TO RECOVERY

At the Broward Sheriff's Office, we take a holistic approach to fighting crime in Broward County. The primary goal of law enforcement is to reduce violent crime, something we do very well. But there are other ways both to reduce crime and improve the quality of life of the residents of our county.

Last April, I was approached by a woman who told me about her 12-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with cancer. She shared with me that when her daughter was feeling happier, her blood levels would improve, and she was at her happiest when she was with horses. For those of you who don't know, my father, Sonny Israel, was a mounted police officer in New York City for six years. My dad taught me a love of horses at an early age. I understand how interaction with these animals could be therapeutic.

The story of this young girl compelled me to ask local experts about the value of equine-assisted therapy, a program that combines traditional therapy with horses. All the experts I approached were forthcoming about the successes they personally experienced, particularly for patients struggling with mental illness. After hearing these testimonials, I believed there was a great need for this service. I wanted the Broward Sheriff's Office to begin exploring ways to incorporate equine-assisted therapy within our existing programs at our Department of Community Programs.

The mission of equine-assisted therapy is to ease pain and add joy to the lives of some of our county's most vulnerable people. This prompted me to organize the first mobile equine-assisted therapy unit in Broward County. The Broward Sheriff's Office has received hundreds of letters of gratitude, which speak to the results of the program.

Since last August, BSO's Equine-Assisted Therapy Program has reached more than 75 juveniles in the civil citation program. Exposing these at-risk youths to the benefits of equine-assisted therapy has helped to keep these first-time offenders on the right path. Our therapy program has also aided in the recovery of residents in halfway houses who suffer from drug or alcohol addictions. At the Peaceful Haven Ranch, individuals with severe developmental disabilities, some without even basic verbal skills, have made positive contact with our horses. We are also partnering with the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital to help raise the spirits of children suffering from cancer.

One of our lieutenants at BSO has a daughter with Williams Syndrome, a physical and cognitive disability. Last September, he experienced firsthand how an individual's interaction with these animals helped relieve the stress of their daily life and put a smile on their face. He was compelled to do whatever it took for this important cause, including sitting on the board of Equine Therapies of South Florida. The lieutenant is hopeful that his daughter's participation in this program will help bring to joy to her life.

Equine-assisted therapies are important to our community because they can truly help anyone. Whether a resident is suffering from stress or schizophrenia, this is a therapy that is proven to make a difference. I encourage anyone interested in participating in this value-added therapy or partnering with the Broward Sheriff's Office to contact Don Maines, our treatment counselor in Community Services, at 954-309-6957 or at Donald_Maines@sheriff.org.

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