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Feb 9, 2013 11:03 PM by Sam Salzwedel

Bipartisan Tucson lawmakers sponsor mental health bill

TUCSON - Local State Representatives from different parties are co-sponsoring a mental health bill.

Republican, Ethan Orr, and Democrat, Victoria Steele, are hoping to pass HB 2570. It provides $500,000 to help fund "mental health first aid" programs.

"We are more prepared to help somebody who's having a heart attack than someone who's having a panic attack," Steele said.

The first aid programs teach regular people how to identify mental health problems and what they can do to help.

The representatives from Legislative District 9 hosted a town hall meeting with State Senator Steve Farley Saturday afternoon where they talked about the issue.

"It's important to identify people that are in need," Orr said. "There are a lot of people out there that are in need in our society, and people just don't know what to do."

Lawmakers have been talking more about mental health since the Tucson mass shooting on January 8, 2011.

"I truly believe that if people such as Jared Lee Loughner might have had treatment," Steele said, "he might not have killed people."

Orr and Steele represent a rare district that is split between a Republican and a Democrat.

"She brings a different perspective, but a rational and a good perspective," Orr said about Steele. "I think this is the first of many things we are going to do together."

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