2024 Grant Application: Accessible Mental Health Prevention and Intervention Programs

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Grant Overview

Please enter a brief descriptive name for this grant*
Accessible Mental Health Prevention and Intervention Programs

Briefly describe the purpose of the grant
"I learned how to breathe again." That’s how one teen described her experience at MoonRise Therapeutics. Caring for horses provides young people with a sense of responsibility and freedom. There is an unspoken bond between humans and horses. Youth sense this and want to strengthen that bond. Simply having another creature to care about, unselfishly, lets struggling young people shift focus from themselves and develop responsibility for something (or someone) else. As they change how they see themselves in relationship to others, positive behaviors begin to blossom. At MoonRise Therapeutics, people are also given space and opportunity to examine their own self-perception as they begin to build trust and relationship with themselves and others through creative horse connections. We've watched in awe as people in our programs develop skills including: *Developing a desire to act unselfishly as they feed, brush, and care for their companion horse; *Feeling relaxed and at peace as they get to know our herd; and *Experiencing a sense of accomplishment as they make progress in building a trusting relationship with a horse. For these reasons, and more, our work provides direction, purpose, and resilience against life’s challenges… and room to learn to breathe again. This grant support will help us keep our services available and accessible for youth, adults, and families in our community.

What is the total budget for the project for which you are requesting EDC support?

How much funding are you requesting from the EDC?

Applicant and Organization Information

Name of Applicant / Organization / Business
MoonRise Therapeutics, a 501c3

Mailing address
PO Box 90 Taftsville, VT 05073

Name of Project coordinator
Laura Perez

Coordinator's email address

Coordinator's telephone number

Organization's website

Organization's EIN

If you are applying on behalf of an organization, describe the organization and its mission (if you are applying as an individual enter "None")
Moonrise Farm is home to Moonrise Therapeutics. We were founded in 2002 by DJ Jesser, a licensed clinical social worker. MoonRise Therapeutics received our non-profit status in 2018 and is increasingly well-known in the community for the services and programs we offer to all ages. At MoonRise we help transform life experiences through partnership with our horses and integrating the expressive arts. We work with individuals, families, and groups utilizing experiential and holistic approaches to address root causes of issues emerging from adverse childhood experiences and other life stressors. The programs are small and flexible, operating during all seasons. Each program is tailored to meet the specific needs of a population or group, serving a variety of ages from early childhood to adults. Caregiver support is made available to any participant's family. The integration and support of caregivers, as well as collaboration with schools as appropriate, is essential for both our prevention and intervention programs. All of our Youth, Family & Adult Services offer people in the Upper Valley community the opportunity to grow, heal, communicate and develop strategies that will allow them to address their own mental health and well-being needs as they develop a stronger sense of connection and belonging in the community. Our staff team is essential to the overall success of our project implementation. Our Youth and Family programs are led by DJ Jesser and Ben Fox. ​The administration and operations of our organization are led by Laura Perez. Ben is a Licensed Mental Health Clinician in Vermont, practicing Expressive Art and Equine Therapy in the Upper Valley Region. He graduated from Lesley University in 2006 with, M.A. in Expressive Arts Therapy and Mental Health Counseling. Ben has more than fifteen years of experience working with individuals and families on issues of addiction, trauma and loss. DJ is a licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and offers direct prevention and intervention services. Her primary work focuses on anxiety, depression and issues from the impact of trauma and adverse childhood experiences. Her certifications include Gestalt Equine Institute of the Rockies, EMDRIA for level 1 and 2 as well as Equine-Assisted EMDR and PATH Intl (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) Registered Instructor and also Equine Specialist in Education and Mental Health. With forty years of experience in the counseling field, and a lifetime of experience with horses, she continues to share her passion and leadership in this work. On-going goals for DJ are to continue to learn from her horses and support positive and joyful connections of people to themselves, each other and the natural world. The unique nature of our programs, which offer prevention, intervention, and integrate horses and art therapy into the work, addresses one of the biggest barriers to families receiving services: the stigma around mental health. Laura (she/her) joyfully co-leads with a team of people who are fiercely dedicated to the delivery of transformative programs and amplifying the voices of the community they serve. She is dedicated to people-powered advocacy and organizing. Her passion is to be with her community, listen to what people want and need, and work to make those visions a reality. She brings over fifteen years of community organization experience to MoonRise Therapeutics, having dedicated her career to creating a safer, happier, and healthier place for us all to live, play, and work.Her baccalaureate education focused on the politics of poverty and community education as a force for social change. Additionally, she holds a Master’s in Business Administration with a focus on strategic organizational leadership.

If you are applying on behalf of an organization, what is your annual organizational budget (if you are applying as an individual enter "None")?

Project Description

Please provide a detailed description of the project
Our Youth, Adult, & Family Services include clinical and non-clinical programs, equine assisted activities and therapeutic art and music making, with a mental health lens. The integration and support of caregivers, as well as collaboration with schools as appropriate, is essential for both our prevention and intervention programs. We believe this demographic data is critically important information when considering the positive effect of upstreaming services versus the negative and long-term impact related to inadequate mental health services and support. *Poverty is both a cause of mental health problems and a consequence. *Poverty in childhood can cause poor mental health through social stresses, stigma and trauma. Equally, mental health problems can lead to impoverishment through loss of employment or underemployment, or fragmentation of social relationships. *Those with the lowest incomes in our community suffer up to 3 times more frequently from depression, anxiety, and other common mental illnesses than those with the highest incomes. *In rural areas like ours, there are fewer trained therapists to help young people experiencing mental health problems. *The challenges faced by people experiencing mental illness are heightened due to the overall shortage of affordable, safe, accessible mental health prevention and intervention services. This shortage often leads to untenable situations including using hospital emergency rooms, chronic homelessness, or ongoing vulnerable living conditions where health and safety are compromised. *People with disabilities report experiencing frequent mental distress almost 5 times as often as people without disabilities. *During the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, isolation, disconnect, disrupted routines, and diminished health services have greatly impacted the lives and mental well-being of people with disabilities. *There is a growing trend of children entering school with significant social-emotional disabilities that are connected to high poverty rates, the opiate epidemic, and the ongoing impacts of the pandemic in our service area. Young people who experience anxiety and depression often require structure and schedules to keep their minds and their bodies focused and occupied. During the summer months, the loss of structure coupled with increased isolation can negatively impact the mental well-being of youth. *Parental stress, poverty, child abuse and neglect have been identified as top priorities for improvement in our regional Community Health Needs Assessment. If MRT services were not available, Woodstock residents experiencing mental health challenges may also face higher rates of unemployment and related poverty challenges. To help meet these community challenges, MoonRise Therapeutics offers the following services: Circle of Security, Family Days & Playgroup~ Sessions are evidence-based early intervention programs offered to families of any form, socio-economic status, and physical ability that support secure attachment between caregivers and children. Groups can come to the farm and enjoy relaxed connections with staff and horses in a safe environment while beginning to explore the Family Support opportunities we offer. These programs strengthen the social connectedness of caregivers in our community. Creative Horse Connections After School Program & Summer Camp~ Through a variety of creative activities with horses, youth will explore relationships to self and others. We support youth as they grow in self-understanding and compassion while increasing their communication skills and confidence. These relationships help combat depression, develop communication skills, and strengthen leadership abilities. Community Partner Youth Programs~ We offer specialized programs for children with social emotional challenges, trauma histories, autism, and developmental disabilities. Our partners include ArtisTree, the Family Place, Strengthening Families Network, Haven, Clara Martin, the Wilder School & HARP, Ottauquechee Health Center, the local schools, and the Special Needs Support Center. Individual & Family Counseling~ Clients meet with a state licensed mental health therapist. Equine-assisted therapy, a team effort where a mental health professional works with a horse specialist, is also available. All of our programs are available and accessible, regardless of ability to pay.

What is the timeline for the project (e.g. when will it be ready to start, when will it be completed,
are there important milestones along the way?
Our programs run 12 months of the year and our fiscal year began on January 1, 2024.

What will success look like?
While individual goals will vary based on the uniqueness of each person, we generally anticipate the following impact for services: *Improved mental well-being by providing therapeutic intervention; *New opportunities to be included while creating a sense of belonging which improves self-advocacy and social relationships; *Develop various self-regulation techniques, and understand how to self-reflect and the importance of it; *See the value in nurturing their own feelings of self-worth, compassion, and trust; *Experience deepening attachment between child and caregiver; and *Build a sense of safety, trust, strength, and confidence as well as a belief in their own goodness. At MoonRise Therapeutics we use the following performance indicators to measure the efficacy of our programs and to provide transparent guides to inform decision making for future program Planning. Ensure individuals served by MoonRise Therapeutics receive quality services to meet their unique needs. *Track the percent of clients who are satisfied with their experience at MRT Build and support a community that promotes recovery and resilience to help individuals and families thrive. *Track the number of school-based behavioral health partnerships *Track the number of community-based behavioral health partnerships Promote behavioral health wellness through prevention services and supports. *Track the number of school-based behavioral health prevention programs *Track the number of community-based behavioral health prevention programs

Project Budget

Please provide a link to a spreadsheet that shows the project's budget, using the format as indicated in this example

Please confirm that no in-kind expenses are included in the budget spreadsheet

If there are any explanations you would like to provide to help us better understand the project budget spreadsheet
please enter them here
We are happy to answer any questions, should you have them.

Community Support

Is there a "project champion" who strongly supports the project?
Dianne Hinarris, MoonrRise Therapeutics Board President and owner of The Olive Table, a local Woodstock company is a champion of our work. "I am the owner of a small business based in Woodstock, and while I don't have a physical presence in town, I know many of the business owners and feel like I understand many of the issues and concerns of the retail business community. Several stores carry my company's products, providing me with a connection to the business community and an interest in the success and future of this community. When my husband and I moved to Woodstock as full time residents five years ago, I wanted to become more involved in the community and decided to volunteer at one of the many non-profits in town. Due to my love of animals and the important work done at MRT, I jumped at the chance to become a volunteer. I started out mucking stalls and paddocks, grooming horses, and assisting during many of the programs run at MRT. As I learned more about the organization, I was impressed with the work being done, especially as the need for mental health services increased during and after the pandemic. I was equally impressed with the dedication of the staff and board members, and was happy to join the board when the invitation was extended to me. I am now chair of the board and continue to support the organization in any way I can."

Describe the level of community support for this project
We are grateful beyond measure for the hundreds of individuals, dozens of private foundations, and numerous area businesses, schools, and area agencies who support our work and make our organization a sustainable resource in the Woodstock community. Our top donors last year included: Couch Family Foundation $45,000 Green Mountain Foundation $26,000 New Hampshire Charitable Foundation $25,000 Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation $20,000 Vermont Children’s Trust Foundation $15,000

Questions and Responses

Question: What was your highest and lowest numbers of clients during 2023. How many of your clients reside in Woodstock. (submitted by Larry Niles)
Response: While we offer services year round, winter is our quietest time. In 2023 we served 385 individuals on more than 1,500 occasions. This represents a nearly 100% increase in the service provided in the previous year. Last year, 27 individuals from Woodstock were served on 244 occasions. Additionally, we served students from Mountain Views Supervisory Union from the Reading, Bridgewater, Killington, Barnard, and Pomfret.

Question: Your budget sheet requires that EDC members request access to the spreadsheet - can you make sure you provide this access? (submitted by Jon Spector)
Response: I have approved your request to view the budget and updated the spreadsheet so that anyone with the link can view the contents. Please let me know if you have any issues accessing the document.

Question: If you were awarded the grant how would you plan to recognize the contribution made by the EDC (so the community can better understand the types of investments we are making in economic and commmunity development)? (submitted by Jon Spector)
Response: Supporting MoonRise Therapeutics gives the Woodstock EDC visibility, networking opportunities and philanthropic affiliation with an organization that is improving lives in our community. The benefits outlined below can be customized to meet your business goals or strategic needs. *Sponsor status and recognition at our annual dinner and other events throughout the year *Logo placement in electronic and printed publications *Logo placement and/or company recognition on event invitations, programs, event signage, and news releases *Social media promotion related to all events *Employee volunteer engagement and educational opportunities

Question: Laura, could you please provide some additional clarifications to your application regarding the history of your partnerships with other organizations, and also the eligibility of veterans for your programs? (submitted by Jon Spector)
Response: Thank you for the question, Jon. As we said in our application, we are both grateful for and proud of the partnerships we hold in our community. Our partnerships with area agencies and schools allow us to remove barriers and increase accessibility for folks who may not otherwise be able to attend. We have a long and rich history with creating accessible space for people who may not otherwise be able to attend and our partnerships are critical for helping us connect with the community. While we have not held programming with Zack's Place since before COVID and we are not currently hosting programs with SNSC or HIgh Horses, we hope to in the future. Our partnership with Vermont Adaptive allows us to provide services to all Veterans, not just those with PTSD. Thank you again for the opportunity to share more about our work.

Question: (Posting on behalf of Darlyne Franzen) Jon and EDC members: I am writing in support of the $5,000 request from Moonrise Therapeutics in support of their mental health programs. I know the farm and its work extremely well: our property adjoins Moonrise and we provide our field for a horse pasture; I volunteer at the farm several days a week, helping to care for the horses and the pastures. Being on-site so often, year round, I’ve been exposed to countless programs and interactions. I’m keenly aware of the positive, calming effect of the farm itself - on anyone fortunate enough to be there. The staff is skilled, extremely professional, and especially perceptive and encouraging. And the horses - the degree of interaction depending on the individual - are simply present. They are calming and reassuring, indispensable tools for healing. I realize that funds are finite and the EDC receives many requests. Although this grant request is comparatively small, it will provide significant support to a valuable community program. I believe it will be money “well invested.” (submitted by Jon Spector)
Response: Laura Perez has not yet responded