Assemblymen Ra, Ashby & Colleagues Host ‘No Surrender’ Veteran Initiative: Making PTSD A Priority

Today, Assemblymen Ed Ra, Jake Ashby and their colleagues in the Assembly Minority Conference hosted a “No Surrender” Veteran Initiative: Making PTSD a Priority roundtable event on Long Island.

The event, one of several regional roundtables organized by the Assembly Minority Conference, was aimed at addressing the pervasive issue of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) facing veterans, as well as law enforcement, health care and emergency services personnel.

“Today’s efforts will go a long way toward helping these incredible men and women cope with the myriad mental health challenges presented by their high-stress work,” said Assemblyman Ra (R-Franklin Square). “Our veterans and first responders put so much on the line to keep us safe, it is imperative we offer them the same level of support and care they offer us. These forums and their companion legislation represent our Conference’s best efforts to do just that.”

“Military personnel and frontline first responders are routinely exposed to emergencies and other circumstances that dramatically impact their mental health. Too often, these incidents create lasting mental health challenges that go largely unaddressed,” said Assemblyman Ashby (R,C,I-Castleton). “For that reason, I have introduced and co-sponsored several pieces of legislation to help address this issue, including a bill to make the Division of Veterans’ Services into its own independent state agency. This evening’s event in Garden City was an important step toward reshaping our state’s treatment plan, and I am hopeful that with the feedback we have gathered we can better formulate short- and long-term strategies to adequately address mental health concerns.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed a number of flaws in the state’s health care system, especially as they related to individuals coping with anxiety, depression and PTSD. Those wishing to show their support for Assemblyman Ashby’s legislation (A.3725) are encouraged to sign a recently-launched petition here.

“As a veteran, I understand what many of our brave men and women go through, and it’s not easy. It’s essential that our state government works with our veterans to provide them with the resources they need after their service,” said Assemblyman Dave McDonough (R,C,I-Merrick). “That’s why this forum is so important; it allows state leaders to meet face-to-face with veterans in our communities to discuss their challenges with stress and grief. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the underlying problems in our health care system, particularly when it comes to helping veterans and first responders coping with anxiety, depression and PTSD. I’m committed to making sure the resources to treat PTSD are readily available to those who need them.”

“Every day, our frontline responders and military service members put their health and wellbeing on the line for the greater good. Unfortunately, these acts of service and bravery come at great cost,” said Assemblywoman Melissa ‘Missy’ Miller (R,C,I-Atlantic Beach). “I am proud of our Conference’s efforts to help these selfless public servants, and I look forward to taking the feedback we have gathered today and putting it to use in the coming weeks and months. These forums will help shape our Conference’s response to PTSD and other mental health challenges, and I am grateful to have been a part of them.”

“I’m proud to be part of this important roundtable discussion to bring awareness to mental-health issues and provide our first responders, frontline workers and veterans the support they deserve,” said Assemblyman Michael Durso (R-Massapequa). “Events like this are critical to bringing these important issues into the spotlight so they can be properly addressed and I look forward to advocating for them during the current legislative session. Together, we can improve the way we identify and treat challenging mental health matters like those facing our brave men and women.”

“The physical toll that comes with serving in the military or responding to domestic emergencies is massive. Coupled with the mental health challenges inherent in the work, these jobs are among the toughest anyone could have. We must commit the time, attention and funding necessary to support these brave men and women and help them mitigate the enormous stress that comes with their line of work,” said Assemblyman Jarett Gandolfo (R,C,I-Sayville). “Today, we continued this important dialogue and took another positive step toward helping those who need it.”

The Conference is also advocating for legislation requiring the Office of Mental Health to conduct a study related to using therapeutic PTSD techniques (A.8377, Giglio, JM), among other measures, including:

  • A.3501, Ashby – Establishes a peer-to-peer mental-health support program modeled after the successful Joseph P. Dwyer Program for frontline health care workers; provides confidential, peer-to-peer assistance for individuals struggling with depression, anxiety or PTSD.
  • A.04646, Ashby – Allows first responders who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder to request line of duty sick leave.
  • A.03585, Ashby – Relates to establishing a green alert system for missing military members.
  • A.04999, Ashby – Establishes the “New York’s Own Combat Veterans Health Care Choice Program Act” to establish tax-free savings accounts to pay the health care costs of certain combat veterans until covered by the federal government.
  • A.03783, Norris – Establishes the New York State Volunteer Fire Protection Emergency Reimbursement account.
  • A.5103, Reilly – Requires the Office of Mental Health, the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and the Department of Education to create a behavioral health website which shall provide information on various behavioral health issues such as depression, eating disorders, anxiety, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder.
  • A.03506, Hawley – Relates to a leave of absence for military spouses.
  • A.05793, Palmesano – Enacts the “Omnibus Emergency Services Volunteer Incentive Act” to provide certain benefits to volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers.
  • A.04846, Miller, B. – Creates a veterans’ clearinghouse for purposes of identifying veterans eligible for benefits.
  • A.03782, DeStefano – Designates certain emergency and public safety dispatchers and operators as first responders.
  • A.07483, Ra – Relates to capital costs of construction, improvement, rehabilitation or reconstruction of facilities owned by veterans’ organizations; allows for state grants to be used for VFWs, American Legion Posts, etc.