California Senate leader proposes $10-billion U.S. mental health plan
President Obama's proposal Wednesday to expand mental health programs in response to the Newtown, Conn., massacre is a good start but much more should be done, according to California state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).
Steinberg said he is traveling to Washington next week to urge federal officials to spend $10 billion more on mental health early intervention, school-based services and treatment modeled after the system funded in California under Proposition 63.
"We believe that $10-billion investment nationally would save untold numbers of lives and help untold numbers of people," Steinberg told reporters at the state Capitol as he previewed his trip.
Steinberg said he hopes to meet with Vice President Joe Biden or his staff, given that Biden was tasked by the president to come up with a comprehensive plan to address gun violence after the Newtown shooting. The Senate leader also plans to meet with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and other congressional leaders during the trip, which also includes attendance at the presidential inauguration.
Voter-approved Proposition 63 raises $1 billion annually for mental health programs in California, although Steinberg complained that previously available funding has been cut by $750 million a year.
Steinberg said his emphasis on expanding mental health programs should not take away from his plan to also pursue new gun control legislation, including the plugging of loopholes in the state's ban on assault rifles.
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento
Photo: State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, left. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press