Wallace, D'Urso, Blake, Cusick, Ashby, Santabarbara, Griffin, Taylor
Establishes the outdoor Rx act; requires the division of veterans' services to review issues relating to veterans' abilities to access state parks, lands and facilities; and provides for the repeal of such provisions upon the expiration thereof.
STATE OF NEW YORK
Cal. No. 311
2019-2020 Regular Sessions
May 31, 2019
Introduced by M. of A. BARRETT, WALLACE, D'URSO, BLAKE, CUSICK, ASHBY,
SANTABARBARA, GRIFFIN -- read once and referred to the Committee on
Veterans' Affairs -- ordered to a third reading, amended and ordered
reprinted, retaining its place on the order of third reading
AN ACT requiring the division of veterans' services to review issues
relating to veterans' abilities to access state parks, lands and
facilities; and providing for the repeal of such provisions upon expi-
The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assem-bly, do enact as follows:
1 Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "outdoor Rx
3 § 2. Legislative findings and intent. The legislature hereby finds and
4 declares that protecting the physical, mental and behavioral health of
5 veterans is critical to ensure successful re-entry into civilian life.
6 Studies have shown that time outdoors can be a valuable adjunct therapy
7 in addition to more traditional health care, while also reducing reli-
8 ance on prescription medication. The therapeutic benefits of time spent
9 outdoors is clinically proven and is known to help reduce stress,
10 improve concentration, and promote overall well-being, both physical and
11 mental. Outdoor-based therapeutic programs hold particular promise for
12 people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Military Sexual
13 Trauma, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Substance Use Disorders. Outdoor
14 programs including adventure therapy, wilderness therapy, horticultural
15 therapy, walk-and-talk therapy, and other nature-based programs, are
16 currently being used by mental health professionals and are shown to
17 have benefits including reduction of stress, restoration of attention,
18 and an improved sense of well-being. New York state is home to natural
19 beauty from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, and has a significant
20 amount of open space, including the Adirondack and Catskill parks.
21 Recognizing the healing benefits of outdoor-based therapeutic programs
EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
 is old law to be omitted.
A. 8094--A 2
1 to residents of the state, particularly veterans and individuals recov-
2 ering from substance abuse or a physical or mental trauma, the legisla-
3 ture supports the establishment of an outdoor Rx act.
4 § 3. 1. The director of the division of veterans' services shall, in
5 consultation with the office of parks, recreation and historic preserva-
6 tion, the department of environmental conservation, the department of
7 health, and the office of mental health, review:
8 a. barriers that exist to provide veterans with increased access to
9 state lands and opportunities for medical treatment and nature-based
10 therapy and programming, including barriers to transportation, handicap
11 accessibility, cultural barriers, mental health stigmas, public aware-
12 ness of state outdoor resources, lack of experience in the outdoors, and
13 funding for public and private programs;
14 b. current state policies regarding free and discounted access to
15 state parks, lands, and recreational facilities by veterans, service-
16 connected disabled veterans, gold star families, and other military-con-
17 nected individuals;
18 c. opportunities to formalize coordination between the division of
19 veterans' services, other state agencies, and partner organizations
20 regarding the use of public lands or other outdoor spaces to facilitate
21 access, medical treatment and nature-based therapy for veterans;
22 d. state lands, based on veterans' demographics including, but not
23 limited to, service-connected disabled veterans, that should be prior-
24 itized for access;
25 e. recommendations, following consultation with appropriate veterans'
26 outdoor recreation groups, to reduce barriers and better facilitate the
27 use of state owned and managed lands for access, preventative care,
28 medical treatment, and nature-based therapy; and
29 f. estimated costs of implementing such recommendations and expanding
30 access/benefits, as well as potential funding sources, including state
31 funding and public-private partnership opportunities.
32 2. Following such review, which shall be completed no later than six
33 months from the effective date of this act, the division of veterans'
34 services shall submit findings to the governor, the temporary president
35 of the senate, the speaker of the assembly, the minority leader of the
36 senate, the minority leader of the assembly, the chair of the assembly
37 committee on veterans' affairs, and the chair of the senate committee on
38 veterans, homeland security, and military affairs. Information shall
39 also be posted in a timely manner on the division of veterans' services'
40 website and a link to such document shall also be available on the
41 websites of the office of parks, recreation and historic preservation
42 and the department of environmental conservation.
43 § 4. This act shall take effect immediately and shall expire and be
44 deemed repealed December 31, 2022.