GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (ABC 4)- World Mental Health Day is Tuesday, Oct. 10, and Priority Health is supporting the mental health of local students through the launch of its Priority Pups program. Developed in partnership with Canines for Change, the program will place five highly trained working facility dogs in select Michigan School Districts within the next few months. 

Now more than ever, children and students are experiencing higher levels of anxiety. Locally, more than 50% of Michigan parents have expressed concerns about their children’s mental state. Through the Priority Pups program, Priority Health, Canines for Change, and local school districts focus on reducing student anxiety and creating a positive environment where children feel encouraged to learn.

What are the benefits of the Priority Pups program and support animals? 

According to Priority Health and research published by Georgia Southern University staff, students who engage with support animals experience a boost in confidence, a reduction in anxiety and stress levels and an increase in reading and problem-solving skills. 

Learn more about the benefits of the Priority Pups program and how it is benefiting local students during Maranda’s interview with Charletta Dennis, medical director of behavioral health at Priority Health, Dr. Nikki Brown, executive director of Canines for Change, and Marni Goodwin, puppy director and treasurer at Canine for Change. 

Visit Priority Pups ( for additional information and resources. 

Sponsored by Priority Health