Rod and I warmly welcome you, the supporters of the Royal Society for the Blind’s OPK9 program, to Government House.
Since 1884, the Society has been helping Australians who are blind or vision impaired to achieve the quality of life to which they aspire.
In 2013, the Society launched the OPK9 – or Operation K9 – program.
This much-needed service provides trained psychiatric assistance dogs to veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Today, OPK9 is one of only four programs across Australia formally endorsed by the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA), and to which veterans must be referred through the DVA Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program.
Unsurprisingly, people who have had experience of war are diagnosed with higher rates of PTSD than the general population.
Some sources suggest PSTD affects 1 in 12 veterans while serving, and 1 in 6 after service.
The OPK9 program has been proven to reduce veterans’ needs for medication, to help moderate their suicidal thoughts, and to increase their propensity to exercise and social interaction.
The statistics speak for themselves - veterans with assistance dogs experience:
- a 20 to 40 per cent decrease in depression, anxiety and stress
- a 15 per cent reduction in alcohol consumption, and
- a 31 per cent decrease in meeting PTSD diagnostic criteria.
They enjoy up to 45 per cent increase in social connection, and a 40 per cent increase in exercise and mobility.
A major benefit of the veteran-centric OPK9 program is that participants retain choice and control at all times.
Each person who comes into the program has their own set of experiences and circumstances.
And OPK9 allows them to shape their own path to recovery.
On a personal note, I know how much unconditional love and generosity of spirit a dog brings to someone’s life.
Our much-loved Cavoodle, Alfie, is more than a four-legged friend, he is a member of our family and somehow knows when one of us needs his special attention.
I therefore pay tribute to the wonderful work of the Royal Society of the Blind and those behind the OPK9 program.
And I thank you, the donors and supporters, who make this wonderful program possible.
It is truly heart-warming to see such a wide cross section of our community supporting such a noteworthy initiative.
Among you I see South Australian business leaders, senior defence personnel, veterinarians, members of Parliament and, of course, representatives of RSB.
Your ongoing support has allowed more than 50 veterans to receive support from a trained assistance dog. And more dogs are about to graduate, ready to help.
Put simply, more support means more assistance.
I am proud and honoured that as Governor I also serve as a patron of the RSB, and I wish the OPK9 program all the best for the future.
Her Excellency the Honourable Frances Adamson AC
GOVERNOR OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA