California Senate leader asks feds for more mental health funding
Days after a gunman massacred children at a Connecticut elementary school, the leader of the California state Senate proposed Thursday that the federal government step up and begin fully matching state spending to help the mentally ill.
In California, for every dollar spent on mental health programs, the federal government provides only 32 cents, which Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said is inadequate given the need for mental healthcare in the state.
"There is no question that the system in California and throughout the country is woefully underfunded,'' Steinberg said at a Capitol news conference. Steinberg is an author of Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, which was approved in 2004 by California voters and provides $1 billion annually for programs.
He estimated that it would cost the federal government an extra $20 billion annually to match what states are spending on mental health programs.
At a gathering of mental health experts at the Capitol, Steinberg also proposed that the new Biden Commission, set up by President Obama in the wake of the Connecticut shooting, use California’s Mental Health Services Act as a blueprint for programs nationally. "These services are a model for the nation,'' he said.
Information about the mental health of the Connecticut shooter is still fuzzy, but Steinberg said the incident calls for a conversation on improving services. "Will a better-funded mental health system that focuses on prevention and early intervention provide the real possibility of averting such tragedies? You better believe it,'' Steinberg said.
-- Patrick McGreevy in SacramentoPhoto: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D–Sacramento). Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press