Six miles from the UNC Chapel Hill campus, The Farm at Penny Lane, part of the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health sits on a nearly 40-acre property in Pittsboro, N.C. Plans are underway to develop the property as a respite with therapy programs and activities for individuals with severe and persistent mental illness.
Current activities include, the Community Garden, a Horticulture Therapy Program and UNC PAWS. Future activities will include walking trails, an art and music studio, and eventually housing.
The Center is collaborating with North Carolina Botanical Gardens at UNC in implementing a horticulture therapy program and expanding the community garden.
Staff and volunteers broke ground and planted a community garden in the fall of 2012. Bee hives, a green house, aquaponics and shitake mushrooms have been added to the garden area. Chicken also arrived this spring (2014) and have recently produced the first eggs at Penny Lane.
Food from the garden is distributed to patients/clients and others in the community.
The Community Garden is the center of a developing horticulture therapy program. A trained horticulture therapist guides patients/clients through recovery. Participants in the program learn about gardening, nutrition and how to prepare healthy food. Gardening also provides the opportunity for socializing and exercising.
In collaboration with the paws4people foundation in Wilmington, N.C. and North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Center is establishing UNC PAWS, a dog-training therapy program for individuals with severe mental illness.
Patients/clients learn to train shelter dogs through a specialized Shelter to Pet program and, subsequently, train and prepare these dogs for adoption. The shelter dogs will be vaccinated, trained, socialized and ready for adoption at the end of the 12-week program.
UNC PAWS works with local shelters and rescue organizations to select dogs that demonstrate the best traits for the training program.