Hawley, Norris join in ‘No Surrender’ veteran initiative to highlight PTSD

Posted 20 December 2021 at 4:22 pm

Press Release, State Assembly Minority Conference

BUFFALO – Today, Assemblymen Joseph M. Giglio, Steve Hawley, Jake Ashby, Angelo Morinello and Mike Norris held a “No Surrender” Veteran Initiative: Making PTSD a Priority roundtable event in Buffalo.

The event, one of several regional roundtables being organized by the Assembly Republican 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 service personnel.

“Gatherings like the one that took place here today give an outlet to those who may not have otherwise had an opportunity to discuss these complex issues with experts, counterparts and lawmakers all at once. This forum gave our suffering frontline defenders a voice, and I am proud to have been a part of that effort,” said Assemblyman Giglio (R,C,I-Gowanda). “Mental health issues can be some of the most difficult to talk about out loud, and I am very happy to see so many brave men and women share their experiences here today. This is a great building block.”

“The overwhelming pressure and danger that comes with military service can shake a person to the core. I have seen too many of my fellow service members struggle to overcome that trauma and one of the reasons I decided to serve in the Assembly was to continue to support those who wear the uniform even after I took mine off,” said Assemblyman Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia). “This initiative represents our Conference’s effort to ensure support for those who lay everything on the line to protect us. I look forward to putting what we have learned here today to work.”

“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 Buffalo 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.

“Our veterans made a decision to risk everything for the freedom of people they don’t know, devoting their lives to fight for peace and justice and a better tomorrow for all,” said Assemblyman Morinello (R,C,I-Niagara Falls). “As a veteran and someone who has experienced the horrors of combat I know the scars of war are not always physical. Many of our veterans suffer internally, and the sacrifices they have made for others often come with a price; PTSD, depression and anxiety. We can and must do better for all of the men and women who have given so much to us and we must be diligent in our commitment to giving each one of those individuals the support they need.”

“The men and women here today are some of our bravest citizens, not only because of their service to our nation but also because they have had the courage to share their stories and continue to fight on behalf of their communities,” said Assemblyman Norris (R,I,C-Lockport). “Our State owes them a debt of gratitude and I am determined to take their stories to the State Capitol with my colleagues to continue to craft our mental health policy that will help New Yorkers deal with complex issues like those we heard about today.”

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, 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.

The next “No Surrender” Veteran Initiative event will be held in the Finger Lakes Region on Tuesday, Dec. 21, from 6-8 p.m. at the Ontario County Safety Training Facility, located at 2914 County Road 48, Canandaigua, NY 14424.