Advocacy Group for Disabled Honors O&R for Getting Vet’s Service Dog on the Job
Action Toward Independence, Inc. (ATI), a human services and advocacy group, honored Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc. (O&R) recently for its efforts to enable a therapeutic service dog to accompany her owner, one of O&R’s meter readers, throughout his work day.
O&R was recognized October 10 at ATI’s 14th annual awards event at The Eagle’s Nest in Bloomingburg. The honor praised O&R for “going above and beyond” by adjusting its policies and procedures. Those adjustments make it possible for Iraq War U.S. Army veteran Nick Leslie, who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), to keep his service dog, Juliet, by his side all day long. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
When Nick returned from the war, he encountered difficulty re-entering civilian life. He recognized his problem but had trouble solving it.
He said, “When you’re taught a fear in war -- such as an overturned garbage can could be a bomb -- that is a rational thought. But when you get home, it’s an irrational thought and triggers panic attacks.”
Nick sought help through ATI, which works mainly with the disabled, and joined its service dog program. That initiative is administered by ATI and funded through a grant from the Wounded Warrior Project, according to ATI Executive Director Deborah L. Worden.
Nick’s new canine partner, Juliet, a young rescue dog trained to help veterans fight PTSD’s debilitating effects, became his constant companion. Her very presence helps Nick by calming his anxiety, neutralizing his panic attacks and keeping him positive and engaged.
Nick said, “There are a lot of things out in the world that could trigger my PTSD and cause me to panic. Juliet breaks me out of that. She jumps on my lap, licks my face, gets my eye contact and interrupts that process.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates between 11 and 20 percent of veterans who served in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have experienced PTSD. More and more of these veterans, like Nick, are partnering with service dogs to help treat the effects – and a growing body of research is revealing significant positive psychological and physiological results.
About Action Toward Independence, Inc. (ATI)
Action Toward Independence, Inc. (ATI) mission is “Serving and Empowering People with Disabilities in Orange and Sullivan Counties” www.atitoday.org.
ATI offers a variety of services and programs that are available to the men, women and children in our community that live with disabilities. ATI services and programs include, but are not limited to: mental health peer support, veterans' advocacy, educational support, mental illness and chemical addiction (MICA) support, benefits advice, skills training, and the Lenny Epstein and United Way Loan programs.
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