NW Hearts United COVID-19 Response Statement
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NW Hearts United is temporarily changing some of our service offerings to support our clients through this difficult time, while ensuring everyone’s health and safety. Since 2015, we have provided connection-focused equine (horse) therapy for youth, families, veterans, and groups in King, Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom counties of Washington. During this current time of crisis and uncertainty, where just about everyone’s mental health is affected-- and especially those who were already vulnerable-- our services are more important than ever.
Washington State, as the first U.S. epicenter of the virus, has been particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 situation. Stress levels are very high as hundreds of thousands of workers have been laid off, financial pressures are high, the future is uncertain, and adults and teens cannot turn to their usual support system of friends and activities. Many therapists are reporting that “the upheaval of a widespread health crisis can be traumatic,” especially for people who already have a history of trauma (Psychology Today, 3/14/20). The CDC reports that common mental health reactions to COVID-19 include: 1) concern about protecting oneself from the virus; 2) concern that regular medical care or community services may be disrupted; 3) feeling socially isolated; 4) guilt (at accepting help from others); and 5) increased levels of distress if they had mental health concerns such as depression before the outbreak, live in lower-income households, have language barriers, or experience racism or other stigma (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html). It is logical to assume that all mental health services, ours included, will be in higher demand now and in the months or years to come because of these new and unexpected stressors.
Our team members here at NW Hearts United are dedicated to supporting youth, families, adults, and veterans as they weather the storm of these uncertain times. We still have a strong stream of referrals coming to us from organizations in King, Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom counties, and our staff and volunteers are working hard to adapt to the current situation and meet the needs of these clients. Our work, which is based in genuine connection with horses and humans as well as emotional awareness and stress management, is a perfect antidote to the isolation and anxiety that so many people are feeling these days.
We have made these changes to our services in response to the COVID-19 situation:
All group events and workshops are postponed until it is determined safe to hold public gatherings again.
We are increasing our number of individual and family sessions to meet the growing mental health needs in our community.
Our therapists and equine specialists are following social distancing and hygiene protocols during all client sessions.
This crisis has also affected our organization in profound ways. Usually 66% of our revenue comes from program fees, and that has dropped dramatically since we have had to cancel our workshops and group programs, and many of our paying clients have lost their income. We will need to depend more on grants and donations for the meantime until we can restart all of our normal programming at some point when it is safe to do so. The biggest need we have is funding for General Operating Expenses, so that we can keep our staff employed and continue to provide individual and family sessions to anyone regardless of income level.
We look forward to partnering with you to keep providing heart-centered, empowering equine therapy to youth, adults, veterans, and families through these trying times. We are all in this together, and as a unified community we will make sure that everyone has what they need.