It's been more than six months since Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin lost his son, Tommy, to depression. A new statewide program created in Tommy's honor will now help others struggling with their mental health.
The Thomas Bloom Raskin Act passed unanimously through the general assembly and was the first bill Gov. Larry Hogan signed after the legislative session.
Monday, Jamie Raskin joined Hogan and other state lawmakers to promote the bill that bears Tommy's name.
Tommy Raskin used to tell his family, “It’s hard to be human.” Those words still resonate with his father.
"This legislation makes it a little bit easier to be human in the state of Maryland," Jamie Raskin said.
Through the Thomas Bloom Raskin Act, Marylanders will be able to speak directly to state-provided mental health counselors through the state’s 211 system.
They can then opt in to receive regular check-ins via phone, text or chat based on their level of need.
If that person is in crisis, those same counselors can step in to help.
"It changes basically the relationship between the state and the people. And to a certain extent what it says is the state will take responsibility for people who are in crisis as much as we can," Raskin said.
The program comes as the country confronts a mental health crises exacerbated by the pandemic. In the last eight years, Maryland has seen a 700% increase in calls to its crisis centers.
But this new service is not a suicide hotline. It's designed to get people before they're in crisis, state Senator Craig Zucker said.
He helped usher the bill through the general assembly.
"This is an opportunity to give people an understanding that they're not alone, and that Maryland is here for them," Zucker said.
Hogan said the bill will save countless lives. He thanked Raskin for his willingness to channel his grief in order to help address the state’s mental health crisis.
"We aren't just memorializing Tommy's memory. We're also ensuring that his name will forever be a symbol of hope for others who are struggling with mental health issues," Hogan said.
In a farewell note to his family, Tommy Raskin wrote, “Please forgive me. My illness won today.”
His father isn’t done fighting.
"Suicide is a permanent answer to what is really a temporary problem," Jamie Raskin said. "We do not want to lose one more person to suicide, we just don't."