Leaders hail state mental health bill named after Rep. Raskin’s late son

Rep. Jamie Raskin

Article originally published by Frederick News-Post, June 21, 2021, by Jack Hogan. For full article, please visit the Frederick News-Post website here.

Six months after Rep. Jamie Raskin’s son died by suicide, the congressman joined state leaders in Annapolis Monday to praise the enactment of a namesake bill that will expand the state’s mental health services.

The Thomas Bloom Raskin Act (SB719 and HB812), which the General Assembly approved this year, will use the state’s existing 211 mental health crisis agency to establish periodic check-ins and connections to mental health resources for people who opt in.

“My family is just really happy that Tommy is being honored in this way,” Raskin (D-8th), who represents part of Frederick County, said at the event. “Let’s hope that we get to a place where we don’t lose anybody else.”

Tommy Raskin died Dec. 31 at the age of 25.

As a congressman in a historically partisan House of Representatives, Raskin said it was refreshing to see the state’s political leadership rally behind such a prevalent and personal issue.

“We just want the young people out there who are in crisis to know that there are lots of ways they can get help,” Raskin told the News-Post after the event.

Marylanders can sign themselves or their loved ones up for the program early by texting “HealthCheck” to 211-MD1 (211631), according to a news release from Raskin’s office.

The bill, which will take effect July 1, was the first Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed following the conclusion of the 2021 legislative session in Annapolis.

“I know that countless lives will be saved because of the law that now bears your son’s name,” Hogan said to Raskin Monday.

According to a report the CDC published Friday, one-fourth of surveyed adults aged 18-24 said they experienced “suicidal ideation related to the pandemic” in the past month.

People may sometimes be hesitant to reach out when they need help, so creating a rapport to cultivate a feeling of understanding is one of the most effective “protective factors” in mental health care, according to Shannon Aleshire, CEO for the Mental Health Association of Frederick County.

The new services will facilitate rapport building, and through weekly check-ins they will increase the “opportunity for connection,” Aleshire said.

Aleshire anticipates her organization’s call volume may increase as people experience apprehension to resuming in-person activities at the tail end of the pandemic.

The association saw a 9 percent increase in call volume from 2019 to 2020, the bulk of which involved people seeking general information about COVID-19 or looking to talk about isolation related to pandemic restrictions.

The Mental Health Association of Frederick County, which services all of western Maryland, has run a 24/7 call center since 1990, according to the association’s website, and 211 Maryland is one of the partners that funds the call center.

Visit 211md.org/healthcheck for more information or to sign up for the health check program.