California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Calif. Could Be Model for Federal Mental Health Efforts, Steinberg Says

Last month, experts and lawmakers said the federal government should consider using California's strategy for mental health care as a model for the U.S., AP/U-T San Diego reports.

The suggestion comes after lawmakers and advocacy groups  called for increased focus on mental health care services and funding, following the mass murder at a Connecticut elementary school. 

California voters in 2004 passed the Mental Health Services Act, which levied a special tax on high-income residents. The money has been used to help 60,000 state residents, with 20% dedicated to prevention and early intervention.

Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg  last month sent a letter to Vice President Biden -- whom President Obama has called on to oversee a review of gun control legislation and gun violence -- urging him to consider California's program as a template for national mental health initiatives. Steinberg in a press conference also suggested that the federal government agree to match money raised by states to create a national mental health system.

Steinberg's proposal is supported by several lawmakers, including Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), who recently sponsored the Excellence in Mental Health Act (HR 5989).

However, Jessica Cruz, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-California, said the federal government should do even more to fund mental health services (Thompson, AP/U-T San Diego, 12/20/12).

Call To Reauthorize Mental Health Agency

In related news, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) in an opinion piece last month called on Congress to reauthorize the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which has not been reauthorized since 2000, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.

SAMHSA, an HHS agency, was created in 1992 to study mental health issues and provide grants for behavioral health care.

Blunt wrote that "[f]ederal focus -- and the dollars that follow -- must facilitate proactive and cohesive collaboration across other agencies that work with the mentally ill and their caregivers" (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 12/20/12).

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