Governor of New York Signs Outdoor Rx Act Promoting Nature as Therapy for Veterans

On Nov. 11, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Outdoor Rx Act, to be effected immediately, which requires the New York State Division of Veterans Services to review barriers veterans may face to accessing state parks, lands and facilities, emphasizing the therapeutic nature of the outdoors and how returned service members may benefit.

“Access to the outdoor-based therapies can be crucial for many veterans suffering from PTSD or substance abuse issues,” Cuomo said in a Nov. 11 news release. “I am proud that New York State is working to make it as simple as possible for our veterans to receive the help and care they need.”

The Division of Veterans Services, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Health and Office of Mental Health will review barriers that may exist to inhibit veterans from accessing state parks, such as transportation, accessibility and “cultural and mental health stigmas”; policies related to free access/discounts for veterans and their families at state parks, lands and facilities; ability to officialize cooperation among the veterans services division and other state agencies and organizations; recommendations to reduce these possible barriers veterans face in accessing state lands and outdoor therapies; and the cost of implementing these recommendations and increasing access.

According to the act, the review must be completed within six months.

“Our freedom to enjoy New York’s natural beauty in peace and security is predicated on the dedicated service of those New Yorkers who serve in our nation’s military,” said Sen. Brian Benjamin, co-sponsor of the bill. “It is only fitting that New York’s natural resources give back to those who have given so much.”

Assemblymember Didi Barrett also co-sponsors the bill.