: To investigate the association between Service Dog Training Program (SDTP) participation
and mental healthcare utilization.
: Retrospective cohort study.
: Outpatient rehabilitation clinic at a large Military Treatment Facility (MTF).
: Military Health System (MHS) beneficiaries who attended at least one SDTP session
at a large MTF (N=597). SDTP program enrollment records identified subjects.
: The SDTP, a unique application of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), is intended to improve
the mental and cognitive health for individuals with war-related trauma.
Main Outcome Measure(s)
: Negative binomial regression calculated the associations between the SDTP participation
rate and two mental healthcare utilization outcomes: mental health encounter days
and psychotropic medication months’ supply.
: Most of the 597 participants were male, enlisted service members, aged 25 to 34 years.
Approximately 46% had a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis, 21% had a
traumatic brain injury (TBI) diagnosis, 47% had an opioid prescription, and 58% had
a sleep aid prescription pre-SDTP participation. Participation was categorized into
low (≤1 sessions), medium (>1 and ≤2 sessions), and high (>2 sessions) monthly participation.
In adjusted analysis, high monthly SDTP participation was associated with 18% fewer
post-SDTP mental health encounter days (RR: 0.82, 95% CI: 0.68-0.96), as compared
to low monthly SDTP participation. High monthly SDTP participation was also associated
with a 22% fewer post-SDTP psychotropic prescription months’ supply (RR 0.78, 95%
CI: 0.64-0.95), as compared to low monthly SDTP participation in adjusted analysis.
: Results suggest that subjects who attend more than two SDTP sessions monthly encounter
mental healthcare differently post-SDTP than subjects who attended one or fewer monthly
sessions. Adjunct therapies, such as the SDTP, may offer patients a non-stigmatizing
way to engage in mental healthcare.