Commissioners approve grant award for K-9 therapy dog in SW Detention Center

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Deputy at County Detention Center Caitlyn Zaragoza-from YouTube

Carly Eversole, [email protected]

Sweetwater County, Wyoming – Sweetwater County Commissioners were approached to approve the 2022 Wyoming Family to Family Health Information Center Mini-Grant Award Agreement, during the regularly scheduled meeting on November, 1. 

Krisena Marchal, grants manager for the county, was approached by county law enforcement to pursue this grant to purchase a therapy K-9 to be used in assisting juveniles with mental health concerns at the SWC Detention Center.  Juveniles at the detention center can range from ages 15-24 with stays in the center ranging from 3-99 days.  Many juvenile offenders that enter the facility are experiencing some form of mental health disorder including anxiety, depression to substance abuse, and trauma. “The Detention center is an ideal location for this project.  They deal with some of the most at-risk people in our society, this project is to deal with positive communication, lower stress and anxiety, positive self-esteem and increase emotional awareness,” explained Marchal.

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“The grant award in the amount of $5,000 is to be used to support Wyoming programs that help children and youth with special healthcare needs and build and maintain positive, healthy relationships within their communities,” continued Marchal.  The grant money will be used to purchase and train the dog, who will have a handler that will work at the detention center Monday through Friday.  Marchal is seeking additional grants for additional startup costs associated with purchasing this dog. 

Deputy Caitlyn Zaragoza with the SW County Detention Center will be assigned as the K-9 handler.  Zaragoza has been the driving force behind this project attributing her passion for this program and the mental health side of things.  “We have used the K-9 therapy dog from Green River and the inmates get excited, they are excited now and are asking when I’m getting my dog.”  Deputy Zaragoza continued by saying, “not only can we use the K-9 in the detention center, but in the community in times of crisis as well.”

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Sheriff John Grossnickle was in attendance at the meeting and gave credit to Zaragoza for putting the work into getting this program going and highlighted how this program would make Sweetwater County unique nationwide.  “We will be the first detention center in the United States to have a K-9 program.  The data from the agencies that have it outside clearly shows the impact and the positive behavior that comes from having this.  We’re excited, it’s a lot less as far as the cost than our traditional working dogs, but it will have a huge impact.  Across the state of Wyoming, you hear about the mental health problem and at the Sheriff’s Office we want to do something about it.”

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After the presentation by Marchal, Zaragoza, and Grossnickle the board voted unanimously to approve the award of the grant money.  Further information can be found in the meeting agenda here

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