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California's voter-approved mental health services can serve as amodel for the rest of the nation, says the leader of the state Senate inthe wake of the Connecticut school mass shooting.

"Mental illness is the unspoken issue of our time," said SenatePresident pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, in a Thursday news conference wherehe called for new federal matching funds for states that offer a broadarray of mental health programs.

Steinberg wrote 2004's Proposition 63millionaires tax, an income tax surcharge that's earmarked for mentalhealth services. On Thursday, he sent a letter to Vice President JoeBiden (PDF),calling on the new gun violence task force to consider matching statesdollar for dollar on mental health funding similar to Prop 63.

"It should not take such a tragedy," he said in a state Capitol news conference, "to spark a conversation on mental health."

Advocates clearly sense the double edged sword of publicity in thewake of the Connecticut murders: the possibility of yet more stigma forthose in need (even as investigators cannot yet say whether the gunmansuffered from mental health problems), but also the chance to shine alight on services available... and the needs unmet.

"There's a growing body of evidence that suggests that the bestoutcomes from treatment are when the treatment is made at the veryearliest stage," said Dr. Cameron Carter, a professor of psychiatry andbehavioral sciences at UC Davis Medical Center.

Advocatespoint out that there's no defined correlation betweenviolent behavior and mental illness, buturge those in need of mentalhealth services, as well as friends and family of those in need, to gethelp.