Horse therapy improves mental health at this Marion County facility

Mending Fences accepts many insurance plans

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – A Marion County residential mental health facility offers unique modes of therapy through music, art and equine programs.

It’s the relaxing rural environment that’s helping its clients, including military veterans and first responders, heal.

“I’m an Army combat veteran and I have issues with PTSD and alcoholism. When my social relationships like relationships with my family started to be affected by my mental health issues, that’s when I decided to reach out to the VA and tell them I needed help,” said 32-year-old Adam Mercer.

Mercer said he didn’t want to go the traditional route.

“I found it to be a little too restrictive being inside all the time. I wanted to come somewhere where I could work on my mental health while also being allowed to go outside,” said Mercer.

With some research, Mercer found Transformations at Mending Fences.

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The mental health and substance abuse facility sits on 400 acres in west Marion County.

“This is a peaceful and serene place, the perfect setting to work through some of those issues,” said Mercer.

Along with group and individual therapy, Mercer was matched with Mr. Scott, a resident horse, learning how to groom, feed and lead him with Equine Specialist Terri Libera.

“The comfort and empowerment they gain from working with the horses and developing a connection with a horse, you see them start to open up. They have a chance to come out and tell their story to the horse with no judgment,” said Libera. “Horses are great in that aspect because they live in the moment. So they help us be more present and stay mindful.”

Mercer underwent a 90-day program with Mr. Scott.

“It’s rewarding to be able to take care of an animal and focus on what their needs are — making a positive difference in their day. That really helps when you’re trying to work on your own mental health,” said Mercer.

Mercer said he now has the tools to continue the path to healing and better deal with his emotions. He’s encouraging others to reach out for help sooner than later.

“Don’t hesitate. There’s a lot of good things that can help you heal from whatever you’re dealing with,” said Mercer.

“It gives me hope to see people heal and I’m hoping we planted a seed here that they know where to find themself again if they have a challenge: to seek nature and animals and find a safe spot for themselves,” said Libera.

The program has case managers who are monitoring the progress of each client before they graduate from the program.

“First to verify, clarify and to be very sure that they’re ready to discharge. Once we have made that determination, we begin discharge planning involving transferring or stepping down to a lower level of care... PHP and intensive outpatient programs for example,” said Executive Director Mike Ransaw.

Transformations at Mending Fences also has an alumni association where the director follows up with former clients to make sure they’re OK. If the alumni is still having tough mental health issues, they can re-admit into the program or get assistance finding other options of care.

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About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.