/ Modified dec 11, 2013 11:35 a.m.

Barber Applauds Mental Health Funding Expansion

Vice President Biden announced Tuesday an additional $100M for services, facilities; AZ Democrat advocate of mental health awareness to prevent gun violence.

U.S. Rep. Ron Barber was among the people who applauded Vice President Joe Biden's announcement Tuesday that an additional $100 million in funding would be given to mental health services and facilities, a press release from Barber's office said.

"I welcome (the) announcement of increased funding for mental health services, which comes after states have cut billions from their mental health budgets during the economic recession," Barber said in his statement. "Sixty percent of people living with a mental illness are not receiving the care that they need. We can and we must do better."

The vice president shared the news at an event commemorating the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., where 20 students and six school staff members were killed.

Earlier this year, Biden recognized the Arizona Democrat as a "champion of mental health first aid," the press release said.

Barber is a vice chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, which focuses on the mental health aspects of gun violence prevention.

He introduced the Mental Health First Aid Act, a bipartisan bill that aims to increase awareness of mental illness symptoms and services available via educating and training teachers, students, law enforcement and emergency services workers, the press release explained.

Provisions of this bill were incorporated into President Barack Obama's gun-violence prevention program.

"By increasing funding for mental health services, we can identify mental illness earlier and ensure people across Southern Arizona and our nation have the services they need," he said.

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