About SRD Straightening Reins
FJ: How did you become involved with this organization?
SRD: I became involved with SRD~Straightening Reins after losing my 15-year-old daughter to suicide. There had to be something that was missing in our community to lose an amazing young lady like Samantha Jean Rocha-Dyer. Family, friends, and community members came together back in April 2011 to help brainstorm and eventually establish a ranch facility that provides equine-assisted psychotherapy and a safe, supervised place for youth to figure out their way- and their path.
FJ: How has it grown or changed over time?
SRD: SRD has grown and changed tremendously over the last eight years. Without a permanent home at this point, we have had to change locations three times. However, we continue to grow to be proactive with workshops to help before a crisis and providing services for youth that are struggling. In addition, we work with families that have a child coming out of the hospital on a 5150 Suicide hold, helping guide them and their children back into the community with services and a safe environment.
FJ: Tell me about the work your organization does and the programs you offer?
SRD: SRD is about mental health and mental well-being. We have three pieces to our mission -
- provide a safe supervised place for kids to develop their interests outside in nature and with our herd.
- provide equine-assisted psychotherapy and equine-assisted learning opportunities that teach healthy coping skills so our kids and their families can lead healthy productive lives.
- work to increase the number of clinical providers as California is one of the lowest in the ratio of clinicians to those in need.
What differentiates you from other nonprofit organizations?
SRD: SRD is different from other organizations simply because we use animals as part of our therapy team. We are a grassroots organization that grew out of a pretty ugly, tragic event and has turned into something pretty positive and amazing for kids in our community.
SRD: The results are best measured on how many children are alive and back in their school settings functioning and contributing to our community. In the month of May 2019, we worked with six families coming off of a suicide hold. In 2018 we provided services for 701 different kids through ranch crew, community service, projects equine-assisted learning, workshops, equine-assisted psychotherapy, and advocacy support as well.
FJ: What are you working on now to improve your organization?
SRD: We are always working on searching for that forever home. Currently, we have expanded counseling services to include providing for foster youth that have aged out of the system and are looking for safe secure environments to work and live. We’ve partnered with American Jobs California Corp (AJCC) to provide work opportunities for these foster youth. In addition, we’ve added yet another mental health provider to increase services available for our community.
FJ: What do you personally spend most of your time on?
SRD: Personally as the executive director of SRD most of my time is spent with boots on the ground. I work as the advocate with families coming out of the hospital students that are leaving the traditional school setting and youth that are homeless. In addition, I am out and about in the community at various organizations and meetings to share our mission of how important it is to remove the stigma associated with mental health needs.
FJ: What is the hardest decision the organization has had to make recently?
SRD: The hardest decision that was recently made back in November 2018 was to move onto a small piece of property just under 1 acre. However in order to stay fiscally sound and continue to grow services the decision was necessary. We continue to look for a larger facility and trust that we will find the right one right here in Santa Clarita.
FJ: Why horses?
SRD: Horses are prey animals always alert and present in the moment. They serve as powerful living metaphors and stand-ins for the challenges and opportunities clients face in their lives. Horses are incredibly intuitive creatures interacting with them helps to build self-esteem and a connection with something outside ourselves. A horse’s sensitivity to nonverbal stimulus gives them an amazing ability to read people and reflect our emotional states. Horses have an incomparable understanding of the feelings and emotional stress that a person is going through. Equine-assisted work often helps clients change and grow more effectively and quickly than traditional clinical and psycho-educational approaches. That’s because people typically learn best by doing. Life lessons take deeper root when individuals both understand them in their heads and experience them in their bodies. Working with horses is engaging real-time and hands-on.
FJ: How can readers discover more about you and your nonprofit?
SRD: Readers are welcome to reach out to SRD via the social media links or come and visit during one of our Community Orientation dates. Schedule a time to meet with one of our SRD Youth Ambassadors to learn first hand what goes on at the ranch and how they might be able to join the team as we work to be proactive providing mental health services before a crisis!
FJ: Any last thoughts for our Fat Jack’s readers?
SRD: Mental health is an illness that many people deal with privately with very little support. SRD is about removing the stigma associated with seeking medical assistance to find healthy tools to deal with life. I can’t bring my daughter back but we can help those in need before a crisis.
To learn more about SRD Straightening Reins visit SRDStraighteningReins.org
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