Md. leaders highlight mental health program named for Rep. Jamie Raskin’s son

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and other local leaders gathered in Annapolis on Monday to discuss a new program that aims to tackle mental health issues in the state. It is named after the son of Rep. Jamie Raskin, who died by suicide late last year.

The Thomas Bloom Raskin Act will allow Marylanders who struggle with their mental health to contact a call center through Maryland 211. The call center will then periodically contact the individuals who have opted into the program and connect them with a mental health service provider when needed.

Maryland 211 already provides a hotline for residents and deals specifically with suicidal thoughts and mental health crises.

“With this law, 211 Maryland and the Maryland Department of Health, their partnership is creating a program that proactively attempts to prevent getting to that crisis position,” said Del. Bonnie Cullison, who sponsored the bill.

Cullison shared that calls to the crisis hotline at 211 have increased by 700% since 2013.

The Raskin program would tailor their check-ins based around individual needs. People who opt-in could get calls ranging from every other day to once a week. The call center will also be able to transfer people to crisis centers and even contact emergency personnel if needed.

Raskin spoke to reporters and said that his family is proud the program has been named for his son.

“Problems among very young kids, even pre-teen kids have skyrocketed. The rates of suicides and suicide attempts have gone up dramatically. That’s what this helps to respond to. We live in a state that cares about each and every young person out there and we don’t want to lose anybody else,” Raskin said in front of the Maryland Statehouse. “My family is really happy that Tommy is being honored in this way.”

The bill, which passed both Maryland chambers with bipartisan support, was the first piece of legislation in the 2021 legislative session to be signed into law by Hogan.

“No one should ever feel like they should suffer in silence,” Hogan said.

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