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Senate leader in DC pushing mental health programs

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 22, 2013 at 2:13 pm •  Published: January 22, 2013

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is meeting this week with Obama administration and congressional officials in Washington, D.C., to promote California's approach to dealing with mental illness as a model for the nation.

California's Mental Health Services Act, approved by voters eight years ago, raises $1 billion a year for early intervention and treatment through a special tax on millionaires.

Steinberg is urging the federal government to devote $10 billion to help states establish additional mental health programs, perhaps by making treatment a priority under Medicaid and the federal Affordable Care Act.

The Senate president pro tem, a Democrat from Sacramento, met Tuesday with aides to Vice President Joe Biden, who headed President Barack Obama's review of gun control and mental health efforts after the Newton, Conn., school shooting. He also met with representatives of national mental health advocacy groups.

"We are leading the country in identifying early signs of mental illness especially in young people and then in doing something about it," Steinberg said in a telephone interview. "They confirmed for us that nobody is doing what California is doing, on the scale that we are doing it. No one is putting $1 billion a year into community mental health."

The Associated Press reported in August that tens of millions of dollars from Steinberg's Proposition 63 has gone to general wellness programs for people who had not been diagnosed with any mental illness, and Steinberg has asked auditors to review the program. Other critics say not enough money is going to those already diagnosed with serious mental illness.

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