Assemblymember Barrett: Outdoor Recreation Helps Veterans Heal From Trauma and Move Forward

Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-Dutchess/Columbia) announced that legislation she authored to create more outdoor-based recreation opportunities for veterans, particularly those struggling with mental and behavioral health challenges, passed the Assembly’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (A.8094).

“Far too often, the brave men and women who have fought to protect our country return home with deep scars – physical and emotional – from their experiences,” Assemblymember Barrett said. “Healing from trauma can take many forms, including nature-based activities, which can be very therapeutic. We in New York have a wealth of beautiful state parks and natural treasures. This legislation opens up new opportunities for veterans and their families to face and work through their trauma as they transition to civilian life. Our state has a great opportunity to lead on this”

The Outdoor Rx Act would facilitate collaboration between state agencies, veterans’ organizations and nonprofits to coordinate the use of lands to benefit veterans. Outdoor and nature-based activities can have an invaluable therapeutic effect on those struggling with service-related traumas such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), military sexual trauma (MST) or substance use disorder. Among the legislation’s goals is to review the current state policies regarding free and discounted access to state parks, lands, and recreational facilities by veterans, service-connected disabled veterans, gold star families and other military-connected individuals. Barrett hosted an important roundtable last month which helped her craft the legislation.

“We also want to look holistically at programs already offered to veterans and military families in New York State and make sure people know what is available to them,” said Barrett. “Too often they simply don’t know. With our majestic natural resources, New York State should be the leader in creating outdoor wellness opportunities from hiking to skiing to fly fishing and more.”

As chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Barrett has continually fought to strengthen services for veterans. This year, she helped pass a state budget providing significant funding for mental health services and programs to help veterans successfully re-enter family life and access employment opportunities.