Fall is falling! School is in full swing, the leaves are turning and the days are getting shorter (and chillier). My office has been busy developing legislative priorities for the coming session, as well as helping constituents address a wide range of issues, from street signs to unemployment insurance and everything in between.
I have been busy too — this year, I’m so excited to be teaching American Government, U.S. History, and Modern World History to an incredible group of young minds. It’s a privilege to not just guide these students through lessons, but to be able to share my own experience using my voice in Maryland’s General Assembly.
HGO Committee on Suicide Prevention
Recently, I joined a somber but important discussion about suicide prevention in Maryland through my seat on the Health & Government Operations Committee. Maryland’s suicide rate is the fourth-lowest in the nation, with an average of 10.29 incidents per 100,000 people as of 2019 compared to the national average of 13.93 per 100,000). Still, 571 Marylanders committed suicide in 2019 — and that is 571 too many.
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly not helped our state, and the call volume to crisis response hotlines ballooned dramatically. Loss of loved ones and jobs, isolation, lack of access to mental health support — these are just some of the factors that caused concern about an increased suicide rate. Firearm sales also surged during 2020, a warning sign considering that firearms are used in a majority of suicide incidents.
With that in mind, our aim is to identify and support ways to continue bringing the suicide rate down in Maryland, including:
- Strengthening economic support to ensure stable housing and food access
- Bolstering access to and delivery of care, including insurance coverage for mental health services and expanded provider access
- Promoting connectedness through community engagement and finding ways to bring folks together
- Identifying and supporting those who may be at risk of suicide through crisis intervention and treatment to prevent re-attempts
It all boils down to this: every life is worth fighting for. If you are having thoughts of suicide, there are people who will care for you, who will fight for you and who will do whatever they can to get you whatever help you need.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 2-1-1 and press 1 to contact Maryland’s crisis hotline. Visit 211md.org for assistance with a wide range of services — rent, utilities, food, health care and mental health care, legal services, employment, and more. You can also call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which offers support in more than 150 languages.
Maryland Budget Surplus
There’s no doubt that it’s been a difficult year for Maryland’s economy. Our families have faced turmoil and uncertainty, many of our businesses have struggled to stay afloat, and our state’s numbers have faced a steep climb catching up with pre-pandemic expected growth. That said, we recently got some good news — a historic $2.5 billion budget surplus.
This hefty chunk of change is mostly thanks to federal stimulus spending, which was key in propping up our economic recovery. We must also acknowledge the leaders here in Maryland who have seen our state through an unprecedented challenge. While a long legislative process remains to determine what will happen with the extra cash, I’m certain it will mean good things to come for the people of our state.
As always, COVID-19 continues to challenge our families, businesses and communities here in Baltimore County and around the world. While our seven-day average new case rate has leveled after a scary late-summer spike, it’s still too high for comfort. We’re actually in a worse spot than this time last year — but we are starting to see signs of a downward trend. If we continue to keep one another safe and above get vaccinated, we can hope to avoid the winter surge which took so many lives last year.
|Area/Zip||Total Cases (Dec. 2020)||Total Cases (July 2021)||Total Cases (Sep. 2021)|
|Perry Hall 21128||480||1,155||1,309|
Spotlight — Online with Old Line
Many thanks to Old Line Government Affairs for featuring me in a series of interviews with Maryland legislators. We had a fantastic interview, and I am grateful for the opportunity to tell my story to a wider audience. I am very humbled when others tell me I embody the American Dream. It makes me proud of the work I have done and how far I have come, and reminds me what an honor and blessing it is to serve this amazing country!
Check it out! Online with Old Line: Delegate Harry Bhandari.