Johnson County Mental Health to take care of some patients’ pets during treatment

The Johnson County Mental Health Center has partnered with local nonprofit BestyBnB to cover costs for patients who need to temporarily rehome their pets while they seek treatment. Image courtesy of Nathan Carter / JCMHC

The Johnson County Mental Health Center has entered a partnership with Kansas City nonprofit BestyBnB to provide temporary homes for pets of patients seeking mental health and substance abuse treatment.

While the program runs through the county mental health center, local nonprofit Friends of Johnson County Mental Health Center nonprofit will help cover the costs to re-home pets of county mental health patients who seek treatment.

How it works: Through BestyBnB’s website, owners can enter their location, the dates needed for re-homing and their type of pet in order to get matched with a foster.

  • The program covers re-homing costs for up to 30 days while patients are in residential programs for substance abuse treatment.
  • “If somebody’s going to be coming back on day 32 or something, obviously we’re gonna work with them on that,” said Clinician Michelle Burchyett.  “But the hope is that within 30 days, we’re going to get somebody connected to solid treatment and a plan for reunification.”
  • The partnership launched at the end of August and has only been used by one county mental health patient in an emergency case so far, according to the county mental health center.
  • The program launch coincides with a recent demand for mental health and crisis intervention resources in Johnson County.
  • “Our goal is really to preserve that bond between the pet and client,” Burchyett said. “Not only do they have any barriers to seeking treatment removed, but they have that bond to return back to — that reason for living.”
  • BestyBnB has also worked with other local domestic violence centers, including Hope House and the Rose Brooks Center.
Tim DeWeese holding a black puppy with a pink leash.
Above, Johnson County Mental Health Center director Tim DeWeese with a puppy. Image from BestyBnB Facebook page.

Why it matters: Burchyett said the need to care for pets can often limit a patient’s options for treatment.

  • More than 70% of 59 county mental health staff members had at least one client decline treatment in the past six months because they did not have temporary care for their pet, according to a recent county mental health survey.
  • “In the past, we’ve had vets that were willing to provide temporary care, but that resource has been harder to come by,” Burchyett said. “I think what we don’t know yet is how many more people we’re going to see because they know that there’s an option.”