Assemblymember Barrett: Outdoor Recreation Gives Veterans a Chance to Heal

Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-Dutchess/Columbia) hosted a roundtable on Thursday, May 16, to discuss how state agencies, veterans organizations and nonprofits can facilitate outdoor opportunities for veterans.

“I hope to see New York State lead the way in offering returning Veterans and their families opportunities to access our parks and outdoor resources to help them heal and recover from PTSD, substance abuse, and other mental health disorders,” said Assemblymember Barrett. “Our natural treasures can be incredibly effective tools to help vets transition to civilian life and this roundtable was an important first step.”

The Assembly’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, for which Barrett is the Chairperson, held the roundtable Thursday to discuss how agencies and organizations can provide more outdoor and nature-centric activities for veterans, particularly those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse disorder and other service-related traumas. The committee, along with representatives from groups hailing from all across the state, discussed several issues, including:

  • Benefits of nature-based adventure therapy for veterans;
  • Existing cultural, geographic, and other accessibility barriers for veterans looking to access therapeutic outdoor activities;
  • Collaborative opportunities for state agencies and nonprofit organizations to develop a Veterans’ Alliance to help veterans get the adequate resources they deserve; and
  • Recommendations to better facilitate the use of state lands and state resources for preventative care and therapy.

Many officials and representatives from agencies, nonprofits and veterans organizations participated in the roundtable, including:

  • Laura DiBetta, Director of outdoor recreation for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation;
  • Randy Simons, Public Information Officer for the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation;
  • Dr. Matthew Perkins, Medical Director of the NYS Office of Mental Health Division of Child and Family Services;
  • Sean Byrne, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services;
  • Diana Pasterchick, U.S. Air Force veteran and Coordinator of Veteran and Military Affairs at SUNY;
  • Benjamin Pomerance, Deputy Director for Program Development at New York State Division of Veterans’ Services;
  • Dr. Thomas Stracuzzi, Chief Psychologist for the Hudson Valley Health Care System;
  • Aaron Leonard, Veteran Outdoors Representative, Sierra Club
  • Nicholas Armstrong, Senior Director of Research and Evaluation for the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University;
  • Cydney M. Johnson, Executive Director of State and Local Government relations at Syracuse University;
  • Dr. Keith G. Tidball, Associate Assistant Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension; and
  • Daniel Morgan, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.