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Mayor Young signs bill named after Elijah Cummings to make Baltimore a ‘trauma-responsive city’

Baltimore Mayor Jack Young signs the Trauma-Responsive Care Act, now known as the Elijah Cummings Healing City Act, into law.

Nearly a year to the day after a former assistant basketball coach was shot inside Frederick Douglass High School, city officials joined students from the school as Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young signed into law a bill that will look to address the trauma the city’s children suffer on a regular basis.

Inside the high school Sunday afternoon, Young signed into law the Elijah Cummings Healing City Act, a bill that creates a “Trauma-Informed Care Task Force” to train employees how to lessen the impact of trauma while performing their jobs.

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The legislation, originally called the “Trauma-Responsive Care Act,” comes almost exactly a year after Michael Marks, a 57-year-old special education assistant, was shot at the high school. The bill received unanimous support from the City Council in January.

Young said the bill was renamed to honor the late District 7 congressman and his work on addressing childhood trauma.

In the months after the shooting, several students took to the council to voice their displeasure with conditions at the school after the incident, saying it exacerbated their trauma.

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young signs the Elijah Cummings Healing City Act into law Sunday during a ceremony at Frederick Douglass High School. The bill was passed unanimously by the City Council on Jan. 27.
Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young signs the Elijah Cummings Healing City Act into law Sunday during a ceremony at Frederick Douglass High School. The bill was passed unanimously by the City Council on Jan. 27.(Kenneth K. Lam)

Brianna Harris, a senior at the school who helped lead the effort, called Sunday’s bill signing a “true example of what we can accomplish when we come together as a community.”

“There are too many issues that we have turned a blind eye to and those times are over,” Harris said. “From this day forward, Baltimore is a healing city.”

Councilman Zeke Cohen, who was the lead sponsor behind the bill, spoke of how four people were shot about a year ago as nearby schools were dismissed students from classes.

Four men were shot in 6200 block of Boston St. in the O’Donnell Heights neighborhood of South Baltimore in March as students from the nearby Holabird Academy and Graceland Park were dismissed from classes.

“Children walking home from school had to duck for cover to avoid being shot. Blood stained the pavement,” Cohen said. “But what I found most disturbing was that when I went the next day to check on the children at Holabird Academy, it was as if nothing had happened.

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“There were no additional clinicians. There was no crisis response team. A little girl described having to grab her 2-year-old brother and hide behind a slide in order to avoid being shot. No one is coming to save us. We have to heal ourselves.”

Maya Rockeymore Cummings, the widow of Elijah Cummings who is running for his seat in Congress, said her husband would have been proud of the legislation and the city’s action on addressing childhood trauma.

“He recognized that hurt people hurt people,” she said. “With this act, we are sending a message of hope.”

Young said the legislation will serve as “a turning point in shifting the culture of Baltimore.”

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