U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, a national leader in the effort to increase mental health service and treatment, today applauded an announcement of expanded funding for people living with mental illness.

The announcement of increasing funding for mental health services comes just four days before the one-year anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. where 26 schoolchildren and educators were killed.

At an event today with families of victims in the Newtown shooting, Vice President Joseph Biden announced $100 million in funding for mental health services and facilities.

The money will go to help community health centers establish or expand services for those living with mental illness and addiction. Grants through the Affordable Care Act will pay for the hiring of new mental health professionals.

Barber’s statement on the announcement:

I welcome today’s announcement of increased funding for mental health services, which comes after states have cut billions from their mental health budgets during the economic recession.

Sixty percent of people living with a mental illness are not receiving the care that they need. We can and we must do better. 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.

Earlier this year, Barber was called a “champion of mental health first aid” by Biden. Barber is a vice chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force and is focused on the mental health aspects of what can be done to reduce the incidents of gun-related violence.

Barber introduced the bipartisan Mental Health First Aid Act, which will provide education to increase public awareness of mental illness symptoms and services available by training teachers, students, firefighters, police officers, emergency services workers and members of the general public. Provisions of Mental Health First Aid were incorporated into the president’s gun-violence prevention program.

Barber was named a Legislator of the Year by the National Council for Behavioral Health for his work on mental health issues. In October, he received the Daniel Moreno award for being an advocate on behalf of mental health recovery.

In January 2011, Barber was among the 19 people who were shot when a gunman opened fire at a Congress On Your Corner event held by then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Six of the 19 people were killed.

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