Assemblymember Jake Ashby served in the Army Reserve for eight years, completing combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a humanitarian mission to Africa. After earning several commendations, including two Bronze Stars, he knows firsthand about the hold that post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can have on one’s life.

“I’m fortunate in that I have a great support system at home. But despite that support system, I still have bad days,” Ashby, the ranking Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee, said. “Last week I went to Michigan and went to the services of a friend of mine that I served with in Afghanistan who took his own life. This is deeply personal to me.”

This week, Ashby kicked off the first of six regional roundtables highlighting the importance of treating PTSD. They are part of the “No Surrender Veterans Initiative,” which refers to ensuring that veterans who are suicidal find mental health assistance before it’s too late.   

“We had done this a few years ago before COVID, advocating for the expansion of the Dwyer Peer-to-Peer program. We’ve been able to expand that funding to multiple counties throughout New York state,” Ashby said. “Now we have new legislation that would take the Dwyer Program and build on that.”

Ashby’s vision is making peer-to-peer programs like Dwyer available not only to veterans, but to first responders, emergency personnel, health care workers and law enforcement.

“What we’re really trying to do is bridge the divide that we often find between civilian and veterans and law enforcement and even health care workers now,” he said.

Below is a list of bills the Assembly Minority is advocating for on behalf of veterans.

  • 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.